Ryan Adams 

Easy Tiger (Lost Highway)

Ryan Adams was needled throughout 2005 for releasing three albums' worth of songs without seeming to consider whether all of the tunes met his standards. In interviews, Adams shrugged off such criticism, but lo and behold, he waited over eighteen months — an eternity for him — to release Easy Tiger, a disc that's tighter and less indulgent than anything he's issued since the dawn of his solo career. Granted, he makes the occasional left turn, as on "Halloweenhead," an off-kilter rocker complete with twinned guitars straight out of an '80s power ballad. For the most part, though, he sticks to the rootsy country with which he made his name. And if Adams remains more of a synthesizer than an innovator, such distinctions pale in importance on tracks as solid as the gorgeously sappy "Everybody Knows," and "Rip Off," a ditty whose artful construction demonstrates how impressive his work can be when he concentrates on craft rather than presuming that even his half-baked notions constitute genius.

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