Ryan Culwell’s latest, Run Like A Bull, was recorded in a swift four days. On its own that’s an extraordinarily condensed timeline for recording a full album, but in comparison, Culwell’s last effort – The last American – was recorded in stops and starts for over a year. Surprisingly, Run Like A Bull doesn’t show any traces of being rushed. It’s contemplative and thoughtful and as powerful as it is mellow.
It’s Culwell’s third record and strongest so far. “I think that first record was me setting my gaze on where I come from and the second one was me setting my gaze on the country as a whole. This time around, though, I wanted to set my gaze more on myself.”
And that introspectiveness can be heard all over the album, like on the defiantly living life to the full of “All I Got,” or the starkly somber “What You Waiting For.” Elsewhere, “Wild Sometimes” is a sweet, autobiographical song about sneaking a kiss after skipping out from church, with the fire and brimstone choir singing in the distance showing off Culwell’s deft ability to create entire, compelling life stories in the span of just three minutes. Lyrically, there are some obvious nods to Springsteen, especially on the beautiful “Let’s Go Crazy” and the fantastic album opener “Colorado Blues,” a song that showcases both Culwell’s lyrical prowess and his impressive voice. Earlier this year, he and Aubrie Sellers released a brilliant, somber cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like A Hole,” which surely introduced Culwell’s emotive vocals to an entirely new audience.
The album ends on “Don’t Let Go,” a gloomy track that threatens to drag down an otherwise great record, but despite the brooding song, the album is overall a surprisingly optimistic affair; stark and sparing with the instrumentation at times, the lyrics still offer plenty of hope throughout.
Photo credit: Neilson Hubbard