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Ryan Adams 

Easy Tiger (Lost Highway)

Ryan Adams has released an album every year since his 2000 debut. Except for 2006, that is. He dropped three the year before, so maybe he needed a break. Then again, the dude regularly posts half-baked tracks and hip-hop goofs to his website. He's too busy to sit on his ass and wonder if he should've condensed 2005's trio of mediocre records into one really good CD.

It's surprising, then, that Easy Tiger is so restrained: 13 songs in under 40 minutes. Adams reunites with the Cardinals, the band that provided the kick to Cold Roses, his best of 2005. But Adams rarely plugs in; only "Halloweenhead" truly rocks.

Indeed, Easy Tiger is one tame kitty. Adams applies gentle melodies and his serious but sensitive voice to the most country-sounding set of his career. The plucked banjo wafting through "Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.," the two-steppin' "Tears of Gold," and the tender twang of "Pearls on a String" put him on Music City's map. And squarely in the middle of the road.

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