Matthew Ryan Vs. The Silver State
The first thing you hear is a pumping rhythm adorned with chime, a la the Pretenders’ “Don’t Get Me Wrong” on “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” the first cut off of Matthew Ryan’s Matthew Ryan Vs. The Silver State. The tune neatly lays out the agenda of earnestly dust-throated Ryan, whose weary, whispery vocal style recalls that of a whiskey-scarred, late-era Replacements Paul Westerberg (see also the acoustic-driven “Killing the Ghost” for a shot of All Shook Down-style good/badness).
Far from a Minneapolis native, Tennessee’s Ryan nonetheless also nails the Northern rock legend’s vibe. Glowing with an inspired Replacements vibe, the rough ‘n’ ready rock stomp of “Hold On Firefly” is leavened by a deft melodic touch as it glows with inspired Replacements-style mojo. Shifting gears a bit, Ryan veers into U2 territory during the moody “American Dirt,” replete with driving bass and a satisfying crescendo.
Not to say Ryan is simply aping his influences – this album is full of solid tunes that stand on their own, while recognizable stylistic signposts only add a comfortable flavor that allows lazy critics to paint the entire work with a broad brush (see above).
“Closing In,” for instance, floats by on a circular, celestial riff while Ryan’s ultra-earthy vocal cords keep it from floating into space. Similarly, the spare “Jane, I Still Feel the Same” proves that a great song stripped to its essence is still a great song. Touches of cello bring the heartbreak to a sepia-toned height. “Livin’ on Jupiter / Couldn’t feel stupider,” rasps Ryan, giving a throwaway line a level of gravitas it could never possibly achieve on the page. And that’s why poetry is poetry and rock lyrics are tied to songs. And it works.
Be sure to check out Matthew Ryan in person at come2go ministries in Fort Wayne on Friday, May 16; tickets – which come with a free copy of this great album – are $12 at the door. (D.M. Jones)
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