Thursday, August 16, 2007
RYAN ADAMS | Easy Tiger | Lost Highway
Ryan Adams’ country-music influences move to the background or foreground, depending on the project. Easy Tiger is an effort to seamlessly blend rock, country, folk and blues à la Adams’ 2001 breakout album, Gold. While Gold glittered with a slew of sunny, major-chord pop songs, Easy Tiger is a more tamed beast. Which isn’t to say that Adams doesn’t dole out the hooks—“Goodnight Rose” and “Two Hearts” are some of the most infectious songs he’s written. It’s just that there’s a certain melancholy thread that runs through these 13 tracks.
The guitar-crunching “Halloweenhead,” for instance, could be a Rivers Cuomo construction if not for Adams’ foreboding lyrics: “Head full of tricks and treats / It leads me through the nighttime streets.” It’s a great rock single, even if it’s a bit out of place.
It’s not a stretch to note that, lyrically speaking, Easy Tiger stalks the same interior landscape as Adams’ misunderstood triumph, 29. Only this time, the lyrics are put to music that’s more expansive and interesting. For example, the jazzy piano ballad “The Sun Also Sets” is surprisingly moving and melodic, while the hard-core bluegrass of “Pearls on a String” simply resonates with North Country harmonies. Easy Tiger is easy to listen to and hard to remove from your CD player. — Jarret Keene
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN WITH THE SESSIONS BAND | Live in Dublin | Sony
You can’t fully appreciate the magnificence of this two-CD recording until you’ve viewed the accompanying DVD. There, you can see how Springsteen has amassed a small army of singers and players. Even more remarkable: Save for the occasional pedal steel and electric organ, this is essentially an acoustic band, complete with banjo, two violins, lots of singers and acoustic guitars, and a kick-ass Dixieland horn section.
The concert is billed as “Bruce Springsteen With the Sessions Band,” referring to last year’s Seeger Sessions recording. That rollicking take on traditional Americana, quietly championed by Pete Seeger, showed a side of Springsteen some might read as a post-election hangover. Few folkies have been more political than Seeger, yet there is nary a hint of protest therein.
In addition to songs from the first Sessions CD, this release includes songs Springsteen has completely reinvented, including “Growin’ Up,” “Blinded by the Light,” “Open All Night” and an “Atlantic City” that is riveting as an opener.
Springsteen’s acoustic guitar, often underappreciated, is crisp, and he is clearly leading the troops. He also employs an endless supply of vocal affectations, not all of which work. But when the horns kick in with the violins, accordion and everything else, who really cares? — Jim Lipson
ARLO GUTHRIE WITH THE UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA | In Times Like These | Rising Son
There must be a special place in heaven for the children of iconic musicians, who can either stand in the shadows of their parents and do little to nurture their own identity, or escape the stigma of their name to define themselves as unique and valuable contributors to the world of music.
Gratefully, it is fitting to hear Arlo Guthrie, son of one of America’s greatest folk singers, come into his own once again as he enters his 60s. Remembered mostly for his epic Vietnam War protest opus Alice’s Restaurant, Guthrie has never stopped creating new songs.
This recording with a full symphony demonstrates the deep beauty of his work, simultaneously witty and emotional. From the sweet melancholy of “If You Would Just Drop By” to the anthemic “City of New Orleans,” Guthrie proves he is a master of his own world. — James Kelly