An enviable knack for elevating the everyday into the realm of the eternal distinguishes Matthew Ryan from the alt-country pack. He is a prolific talent, releasing no fewer than eleven albums in the past ten years, but latest offering _Matthew Ryan Vs The Silver State _really does feel like a milestone. These are songs that hurtle headlong into the listener's affections, emotions unvarnished, music unforgettable. _MRVSS _finds the American songwriter sharpening his soul-piercing songcraft on the whetting stone of personal mythology. It’s a questing record, Ryan casting the net of nostalgia and dredging up all kinds of intimacies, trying to work out just what it is that makes us the people we are.
There is no sheen to these songs: not only are they emotionally direct, but they are musically raw, each track recorded live, the lack of polish leaving the songs’ tender core exposed. The opening brace ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ and ‘American Dirt’ display lovely dynamic range, the former an exquisitely stoned meditation the latter full of steely intent, muscular and purposeful. Throughout the lyrics are slathered in a wistful languor. On the pivotal ‘It Could Have Been Worse’ he evokes bygone days with bruising clarity: “She’s the first girl you kissed / She’s the first girl you miss”. Clearly the past cannot be escaped no matter how fast you run.
Elsewhere there is a sense of broken down yearning, note ‘I Only Want To Be The Man You Want’ and ‘Drunk And Disappointed’. And yet though the heartache here stings it never smothers, for there is an unquenchable optimism underpinning this music, a willingness to regard the world in all its gnarled beauty, creating poetry of joy and sorrow alike. The audaciously accomplished ‘They Were Wrong’ _and the final ‘Closing In’ _even find Ryan bossing territories once the sole preserve of Springsteen. And though not every track is quite so star spangled, _MRVSS _remains a glittering triumph of a record.
8Francis Jones's Score