Some Ryan Adams fans contend that his bootlegs are better than his "real" albums, so now, as part of Adams' ongoing campaign to prove that he isn't as impossible as he seems, the maturing singer-songwriter presents a record with the looseness and simple grace of his boots. Easy Tiger finds Adams forgoing his "as soon as I finish my Britpop album I'll make my honky-tonk album" single-mindedness. Instead, he lets the songs flow gently in whatever direction they need to go. Even Easy Tiger's first song, "Goodnight Rose," begins as disjointed, chaotic roadhouse country, until it hits a chorus that's pristine pop, buoyed by a reassuring tone. "The sun will come up again," Adams sings. "If you get scared, just hold my hand."
Adams sounds a similarly conciliatory note in "Two," a mellow country-rock charmer about the need for companionship, and in "Two Hearts," a twisty little toe-tapper that gets to a poised, Smiths-y place much quicker than the whole of Adams' overwrought Love Is Hell. At its best, on here-and-gone winners like "Everybody Knows" and "Rip Off," Easy Tiger is likeably unassuming, coasting by with songs that don't seem to do much, until—as on "Tears Of Gold" and "The Sun Also Sets"—they hit an arrestingly gorgeous chorus.
Of course, the record also sports plenty of dead-end exercises, as well as songs like the excruciating "Halloweenhead," which attempts the kind of thumping retro-rock Adams always fails to finesse. On the whole, Easy Tiger isn't quite as strong as 2005's Cold Roses—and even that release was naggingly inconsistent. But Adams has a history of making scattershot records: 50 percent brilliant, 25 percent okay, and 25 percent hackery. By the standards he's set for himself, Easy Tiger is one of his best, if only because it beats the percentages.