Matthew Ryan’s 13th album, I Recall Standing As Though Nothing Could Fall (2011) continues to genre define, while evolving with the spare music accompaniment that accompanies Ryan’s raw lyrics. Ryan said it best about his lyrical motivations in this interview with Glide – “I’m just documenting the life and observations of a fairly intelligent human that has a stubborn belief that we’re capable of so much more.”
This is not a singer-songwriter getting wasted in front of a mirror. He’s looking at all of us, questioning what is real, frankly asking what we want. In many ways, Dear Lover is Matthew Ryan’s Blood on the Tracks with a familiar idiot wind trying desperately to sweep our dreams away. Only this time, we can still win if we open our hearts and mouths.
I was listening to M. Ward's version of Daniel Johnston's “Story of an Artist” today and it got me thinking about what motivates me to do this. Over and over again, I've put my mining helmet on and went with glowing eyes into that great unknown. The process is no fun for me. I'll be honest with you about this. It's hell. I can never quite put a finger on what draws me in. It's an irresistible urge for me. Almost as if my chest fills with reverb and my mind offers a conversation in words fit for a postcard. But that's only half of it—that's a rush.
Before Matthew Ryan and his band, MRVSS, took the stage at Blueberry Hill, he and his bassist, Brian Bequette, were joking with me and my wife, explaining how the headliner, Tift Merritt, was a “firecracker.” Ryan and his band seemed happy to be on the road with the energetic singer-songwriter, eager to share their music with a respectful room of people.
Inspiration was key during the 90-minute set, which featured many of Ryan’s songs from a wealthy back catalogue, including “Sweetie” and the crowd favorites “Irrelevant” and “Guilty.” Even though it was a small group of people who got to experience a gifted artist in his prime, there wasn’t any struggle with what Ryan was trying to communicate: that we’re all in this together, and that the battle may never result in a victory.
The price is steep, for the secrets we don’t keep,” sings Matthew Ryan on “Meet Me By the River,” just one of the stellar tracks off his new album, Matthew Ryan Vs. The Silver State (MRVSS). Ryan doesn’t keep many secrets on the 11 tracks that make up the brilliant piece of work—he lays it out for the listener, warts and all. And it’s quite a journey.
Silver State doesn’t just close in on being a great record–it finishes the job, serving as an early highlight for 2008.
"Here’s comes the razor of doubt, here comes the falling out,” Matthew Ryan sang on the opening track of his first album, May Day, released seven years ago. That particular song, “Guilty,” has summed up the majority of his feelings he has touched on since: living with the doubts that life deals you. Matthew Ryan isn’t a happy songwriter. He’s a human being.
Matthew Ryan’s latest, From a Late Night High-Rise, could certainly be called his life-support project, only because there is a certain strain, a certain struggle that clings to the thinnest ice on every note, where the sadness becomes beautiful.