Simple, lovely, and focused; all right, those of you who never thought those words would be used in a review of anything ever released by Ryan Adams, hold up your hands. Don’t worry, mine are in the air as well.
From the first moment I heard “New York, New York” off of his sophomore release, Gold, I’ve been a devout fan of Adams, so I don’t feel too bad about making such an observation of the man and his music. While capable of penning some devastatingly beautiful songs, rare is the record of his that has one consistent voice from beginning to end.
For instance, while I love nearly every single word and chord on his debut, Heartbreaker, it’s really more of a stumbling kind of a record. Veering from ethereal acoustic efforts into brash rockabilly jams; it just never seems to find a consistent footing. Up until now I’ve always considered that to be part of Adams’ charm.
When you’re full of so much talent, who is to say at what level of consistency it’s supposed to pour forth? Instead of complaining too much, I figure, isn’t it better to sit and lovingly let the river of music rush over your feet as you waggle your toes back and forth, than question it too deeply, only to see it dry up and stop completely?
Not the best comparison, true. I like it, though.
It was a way of thinking that seemed to suit the occasion of each new release by Adams. Whether it was the raucous beauty of Rock N Roll, the wondrous musicianship of Gold, the soft sultry country twang of 29 and Jacksonville City Nights, the heartbroken whisper of Love is Hell, or the eclectic melodies that bind Cold Roses together, there would always be one or two songs that seemed rushed and not fully polished. Taking the time to consider how lovingly the were enwrapped in the rest of any given album’s amazing tracks, that’s not something to truly complain about.
And I wouldn’t be, except…
Sitting beside me as I type this is a copy of Adams’ latest release, Easy Tiger. After listening to it endlessly over the past few weeks, it’s an album that’s nearly come to make me think less of Adams and his music.
Not because it isn’t good, mind you. It’s because it’s so damned wonderful.
Instead of simply opening the spigot of his talent as he is usually want to do, and putting out albums at a fairly speedy pace, Adams took his time on this one. While I loved the spectacle of him (and his current backing band, The Cardinals), releasing three albums in the space of one year… it’s very evident that the couple of years that it took for this album to gestate and come into being, was time well spent.
Gone are the moments where it would sound as if, instead of listening to one complete album of material, you were listening to a mix tape made up of the best 2-3 songs out of 5 albums or so. Sure, there are different musical tones and song styles on Easy Tiger, but they all blend together into something more than their individual parts.
From the Honky-tonk guitar swagger of “Goodnight Rose,” the soft and luxurious vocals of “Two,” the amazingly dense and joyful melodies of “Halloweenhead,” the “Grand Ol Opry” channeled spirit of “Tears of Gold,” the nearly Whiskeytown vibe of “Two Hearts,” the harmonica-flavored stunner of an album closer, in “I Taught Myself How To Grow Old,” and all the other equally wonderful songs that dance in and around the ones I’ve mentioned, it all works and it’s all beautiful.
Instead of listening to 13 amazing songs from Adams, this is the first time I have ever been able to say that this is just one amazing album. From start to finish this is one piece of work that just happens to have 13 separate movements dancing within its structure. And that, in the end, is why it kind of irks me.
Has Ryan Adams always been able to accomplish something this lovely, if only he’d have ever slowed down for a bit and truly listened to his muse? Or has it simply taken the turning of the calendar for that ability — the ability to perceive and understand that such a thing was within his grasp — for it to happen?
Either way, if I was a devoted fan before, I’m doubly so now. No matter where his muse may take him, or his music take me; I’m planning to be there for the long haul. Very rare is the band or artist that holds such a place in my heart…
Thank you, Ryan. Thank you for taking the time to find your way and give your talent and career the time to grow and flourish, and thank you for allowing those of us with decidedly less talent, to come along for the ride.
Long story, short? Easy Tiger is brilliant, perhaps more so than its creator might have thought possible of himself.