I have had this song stuck in my head for a week.
Seriously, I wake up singing it.
This Town, by Don Ryan.
I got an e-mail a few weeks back from this gentleman. He sent me this video. I opened it up, gave it a good listen, and it has been stuck in my head ever since. I have posted it on Facebook. I have e-mailed it to friends. It’s been blasted in my car speakers. I have said it before, it takes a lot to knock my socks off, especially musically. I am not easily impressed, and I see through the glitz and polish quite easily. But this…this is the real thing. Don Ryan is different. This is real music. This is real good music.
I downloaded the whole album, Tangle Town, after giving this video a few good spins in my headphones. Usually when it comes down to needing to review music, I find the best possible method for me is to listen to it in my car. I spend a lot of time in my car. I am a commuter. A hardened, foul-mouthed North Jersey highway commuter. We are our own breed. If not for music, I would probably have had a Michael Douglas Falling Down moment a long time ago. That being said, music for me is best absorbed through the ears and into the brain (and soul) in the car. Onto my thumb drive went Mr. Ryan, and into my Kia went the thumb drive.
I have been bouncing this music around in my speakers now for a couple weeks, and the first time I listened to it, I actually went into work late because the song Living Avenue was not done playing, and I could not turn it off. Imagine the folk sounds of a later Jim Croce having a love child with the deep soul of Jeff Buckley, and you are still not even close. It’s gorgeous and deep. Full and thick with something I can’t seem to touch, but I can still feel. I fell in love with this song immediately. It’s a gentle mix of simple guitar and vocals with these low vocal backgrounds. Drums come in, background noise comes in, it all fills out and takes you somewhere else entirely. And singable. Sing along with it.
A Mouse in God’s County is another favorite of mine on this album. It has a flavor like that of This Town, but a little more fevered and with great lyrics and intensity. Somewhere between the songs on this album, you feel transferred somewhere else entirely. It’s like being sucked into some strange dust bowl depression era carnival with this man as your guide…your only link back to the modern world. And he seems to straddle that line with a sly smirk on his face the whole time. It’s a great trip. I can’t seem to get it out of my car speakers, my computer headphones, or my head in general. When I like something, I listen to it to death. I am killing this album as we speak.
Now take the song Maybe You Were Right. A strange journey into an almost hallucinogenic ride at some distorted county fair. But it’s beautiful. Don Ryan has a way of singing over all the strings that keeps it normal even when it seems headed in that trippy Beatles-after-Dylan-showed-them-weed direction. It’s really amazing what he does with the layers of sound on this album. Every time you listen, you will notice something you didn’t hear before. It’s dark, but it’s truthful and beautiful.
Don Ryan mixes it all up. He takes older styles of music, various instruments, and basic folk sounds and threads them all together into this great sound. There is so much variation between the songs as well. Little bits and blurbs. Then the song will start, and just take you away. It’s not straight folk all the way through, though you can hear and taste that in On Our Way Home and Down and Out…which has amazing lyrics. It’s not straight tripped-out carnival music, though you will get that feel all the way through the album in small doses and surprises mid-song. It’s got that noir-pop flavor mixed in.
There is a taste of Buckley. A taste of Waits. But this is all Don Ryan. A strange trip to another time and place. Beautiful and haunted. Driving along with this in my speakers, I find myself watching the world go buy with different eyes. I can’t wait to catch him live and feel the vibe in the room. Well done, Mr. Ryan.