By Matthew Ryan
Another American singer songwriter signed up to One Little Indian's roster. The A&R guy there deserves a big pat on the back cos he's backed another winner here. There's nothing new here or any musical boundaries being pushed, just a guy and a guitar writing great songs. That's Ryan's strength. The ability to write songs, not just a catchy hook or a cool phrase. These are personal anecdotes and story songs that seem to be missing a lot of the time in today's musical culture. I'm reminded of Springsteen simply because this is a record that makes you want to be driving at night across some desolate American wasteland. The whole record just has atmosphere about it, a little like "Nebraska".
There's picked guitars and slow bowing of strings that help build the soft, dark atmosphere of each song with Ryan's gruff rasp of a vocal gently narrating over the top. "Happy Hour" is delivered in the most downbeat fashion imaginable and the irony works "If you had everything you wished for what would you live for?" Ryan asks. It's a dark question but one that maybe you'd be afraid to think too much about. "Devastation" is a tale of loss and dealing with it, becoming hard and moving on "I miss her so much, but not enough to call, I've wrapped myself in a sweet kiss of loneliness". Lucinda Williams' vocals add sweetness to the bitter taste.
A fine cover of The Clash's "Somebody Got Murdered" ups the tempo and is preceded by "Night Watchman", the tale of Hank Low whose young life is tarnished by an abusive father and leads to an inevitable unhappy end, "Came up slow behind, movin' awfully quiet, I remember summer crickets, I stabbed him 30 times". The line about crickets adding to the tension by prolonging the end and adding to the depth of the character. A song that could find itself become the basis of a film one day?
If you need cheering up then it'll be best to wait until your in a better frame of mind to listen to this record but once you have you'll feel all the better for it.