So there I am at a bar called Scoot Inn located off the beaten path in Austin, Texas, US of A. I’m enjoying the sunshine, some free pale ales, and my first day of SxSW. Some loud “experimental” band I can’t seem to remember started playing outside, so I ambled to the bar indoors that held some shade and a second stage where a singer/songwriter stood, tuning his guitar. His name was Matthew Ryan and everyone in the packed room seemed to already know that except for me.
This guy from Nashville stood alone on the stage with an acoustic guitar, cleared his throat and the buzzing room was silenced. Everyone fixed their gaze to the stage in anticipation while I slurped down beers, waiting for Frank Smith to follow. Then Matthew Ryan started to sing and I asked a stranger, “Who is this guy again?” Matthew Ryan. Now committed to memory.
I made it back to California and picked up his new album, Matthew Ryan vs. The Silver State on the day it was released. Since then, it’s been my most played album so far this year. His songs have a way of tugging at your emotions. They are honest, sometimes stripped down and other times orchestral. His raspy voice delivers each well crafted verse with care and his lyrics are, at times, stunning.
The album includes a full band, but Ryan stopped into Shirk’s downtown Chicago studio with just his guitar and harmonica accompanying him. He played three tracks from his latest album, “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” “American Dirt,” and “Jane, I Still Feel the Same.” If you like the sound of those, there’s plenty more on the album. His music has been featured on the television show One Tree Hill and compared to none other than Bruce Springsteen. Call him Americana, folk, alt-country…whatever. He’s damn good.