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Ryan Adams

It's easy to take Ryan Adams for granted; after all, he's a prodigious overachiever whose output often manifests in multiple annual offerings. So it's no surprise to find Follow the Lights, a well-stocked seven-song EP, following closely on the heels of his recent full-length Easy Tiger. But while some artists use their EPs as dumping grounds for secondary stash, Adams maintains quality control. Indeed, it bears special scrutiny for its two new songs, "Follow the Lights" and "My Love For You Is Real," easily among the best works in Adams' outstretched catalog. They each point to the rehabilitation — musical as well as personal — of this one-time renegade, effusing soothing, soft-core sentiment with a sound that's somewhat frothy around the fringes. Cooing yet convincing, and written specifically for ABC's wispy prime time series "October Road" (which helps explain their sugary sentiment), they provide a gracious double-stacked intro that's instantly embracing. The rest of the set follows suit, parlaying more of Easy Tiger's mellow rumination into re-dos of earlier efforts. A surprisingly reflective cover of Alice In Chains' "If I Am a Stranger;" a weary, resigned "Blue Hotel;" and soulful takes on "Down in a Hole" and "Dear John," a co-write with Norah Jones, stand out the most. However, it's the effusive "This Is It" that provides a beckoning call, apt for an artist now at peak performance.

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Lee Zimmerman

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