Ryan makes waves on breakout debut “Currents”

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Andrew Ryan and I have crossed paths many times as our journeys through separate sides of music have progressed. And while I would say that his has been the more interesting route, regardless I’m just appreciative to have played a journalistic spectator to his creative and musical evolution.

And no period in all that time has been more significant for him than the one here today. Since I’ve known him, Ryan has been a drummer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, writer and versatile jack-of-all-trades. But with his debut solo album Across Currents, we find him out of the support role and instead thrust directly into the spotlight.

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And thats not just because his name comes first on the bill, either. With this album Ryan is now the creative center line on the map drawing all the pieces his way, and Currents gently reflects the care of an artist who is very much aware of that. Much like we all do on a daily basis Ryan is figuring it out as he goes along here, but he manages to do so with a carefully enriching level of honesty.

Singing with a voice somewhere in the gentle timbre of an Elliott Smith or Mark Linkous mixed with a twist of slack-rock drawl, Ryan’s vocals are often more musing than momentum-filled. But that’s a very effective style for him, as tracks like “Take Aim” and “City Lights” demonstrate so well. “Out Of My Head” and “Gwyneth” show even further potential for Ryan down that road, as mourning the death of someone close and celebrating the love of his daughter brings out some of the most moving moments this record has to offer.

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And those effects are boosted when they’re brought together by Ryan’s deft hand for production. Where musicians like Smith or Linkous might be more content with tape-crackled landscapes with the ribs brought through, Ryan has a much warmer campfire to pull up a chair to. Currents generously sprinkles in horns, keys, drums, guitars and vocal layers (among other things) to dot the terrain with constant levels of shifting interest. On many occasions I found myself doubling back to a song just to catch a fragment of saxophone or winking of piano or harmonica that managed to sneak a cameo into the arrangement.

In a way, sneaking in is the best thing that Across Currents does. The tone of the record may not hit you on the first listen, but thats the thing about art built around introspection: it doesn’t just reveal itself after a few minutes. As a recovering introvert myself, this kind of storytelling takes time to reveal but means a lot if you just make the time to sit and listen to it.

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Its also the type of storytelling that can be very difficult to willingly tell (especially publicly), and for that I give Ryan a lot of praise.

He’s created a fine start to what I hope is a long solo career still waiting to be heard.

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For more, visit andrewryanandthetravelers.com. Photos courtesy of the site. 

Ryan’s “Travelers” Shine In Debut Sneak Peek

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Music journalism is a business that has a tendency to be feast or famine. One day you might strike a big success that everybody loves, and the next you might find yourself on an empty oasis doing it just for the pleasure of creation.

Thankfully I’ve never lost that sense of enjoyment. Mostly because it’s always been a passion of mine, but also because of how this blog and these writings have connected with people. It used to happen periodically back in my Youtube days, but I’ll tell you this… Youtube is one of the most singlehandedly lonely experience for a creator trying to find an audience.

I’ve had videos get thousands and thousands of views, but not a single comment or interaction from another person. And I always hated that considering how much I always wanted to interact with people who had the same interests that caused me to make what I did in the first place.

But luckily that wasn’t always the case, thanks in part to people like Ryan Hahn. I first became acquainted with Hahn years ago because he was looking for someone to review the band he was playing drums in at the time called The Difference Engine. That eventually parlayed itself into an email interview with the band, which was big for me at the time considering it was only the second time I’d ever done such a collaboration.

That was a major benchmark moment as you might imagine, and thankfully I’ve been in touch with Hahn in the years since on a variety of projects (including another still to come on this blog). But my favorite in the early going has to be the first batch of songs he recently sent me under the new moniker “Andrew Ryan & The Travelers”.

It’s essentially a solo project despite the band name (Hahn recorded/sang most everything himself with help from ex-Difference Engine guitarist Nick Vanderveldt and vocalist Marie Marotti). And instead of working in the background as a multi-instrumentalist/producer/songwriter, this effort rebrands Hahn not only in name but as an assertive frontman as well.

This first trio of songs (“Out Of My Head”, “Town & Country”, “Disingenuous”) are confident in their direction and very well-nuanced in both instrumentation as well as songwriting. These are tracks that are just mellow enough to suit Hahn’s well-weathered vocals, yet still bleed their influences all the way from Americana to Alabama Shakes-style moody blues rock.

Listen here: http://www.soundcloud.com/andrewryan-thetravelers

“Out Of My Head” is a slow burning emotional thunder strike following the death of a close friend, “Town & Country” embodies a yearning hometown restlessness amidst sinewy slinking drum lines, while “Disingenuous” is a hook-happy piece of sprightly folk with a darker depth than it initially lets on. These are songs that are very certain in their direction, and show a stylistic range that’s indicative of Hahn’s great skill as both a producer and musician.
I’m always extremely proud of any person that isn’t afraid to make their voice heard. Just being unafraid to sing is impressive enough (no matter how good or bad you sound). But to exist in the background and gradually build yourself up to the point you’re ready to write and shape and create your own music and put yourself in the spotlight is worthy of great praise.

That takes a lot of surety in yourself as well as vision and confidence in what you’re trying to achieve. And I hope for Hahn’s sake he doesn’t let off the throttle in acting on those creative instincts.

He and The Travelers certainly have something special waiting in the offing here. It’s efforts like these that will never put a stop to the faith I have in the music world. Just because it’s not on the radio…. doesn’t mean there aren’t enough gems in the rough to make a diamond blush.

Here are three reasons to prove it.

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