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Ryan Curtis (from the album Ain’t Ever Easy available as a self-release) (by Brian Rock)
Ryan Curtis blurs the lines between Blues and Country on his sophomore album, Ain’t Ever Easy. Curtis balances his musical influences perfectly between Memphis and Bakersfield. The balance is so precise, that if you were to use these same musical arrangements with Dwight Yoakam singing lead, it would undoubtedly be a County album. And if you were to have the late, great B.B. King sing lead, you would swear this is a Blues album. The X factor that makes it so hard to pinpoint which genre is being showcased is Ryan Curtis’ distinctive voice. Part John Fusco, part Chris Stapleton and a surprising amount of Dr. Teeth; Curtis’ voice is growling, gravelly and gruff. It commands attention even as it defies classification.
Lyrically, Ryan Curtis deals with themes of recklessness and remorse. Although regret is typically the second part of the equation, Curtis chooses to lead off the album with the remorseful, “Can’t Take Back”. Fuzzed out electric guitar and electric organ give a lively, Kosmic Blues feel as Curtis belts ‘like oil on a canvas, like ink on your skin, these mistakes are permanent’. Never admitting his verbal miscue, Curtis and his talented backing band unleash a funky, care free celebration of denial, until Ryan Curtis finally concedes ‘I love my woman, but she ain’t ever coming back’. Although we never learn the offending phrase, the musical phrasing is simply captivating
“Wasted Energy” expresses the regret of a senseless argument and the time that was wasted pursuing it. Tones of Bakersfield resonate throughout the song. “Drunk Tank” takes a Southern Rock influenced look at remorse through the bars of a local holding cell. With equal parts humor and pathos, Ryan Curtis sings ‘as I open my eyes, it was plain to see. This is not where I’m supposed to be’. Unaware how he got there, he spends the rest of the song trying to piece together the events that led to his predicament.
Which leads to Curtis’ reckless side. “Good Corn Liquor” celebrates mountain moonshine with Texas Blues rhythms. “Cactus And Cocaine” uses accordion-infused Bakersfield rhythms to tout more reckless indulgences. “Codependent Heart” masterfully fuses his Bakersfield and Memphis sensibilities to address the most reckless pursuit of all: dysfunctional relationships. Singing ‘I know it ain’t right, but I come back every night’, Ryan Curtis addresses the potent addiction of animal attraction. In hindsight, any one of these three tales could explain how Curtis ended up in the aforementioned drunk tank. However, the ambiguity, and of course the brilliant Country/Blues fusion rhythms, make the stories all the more interesting.
Turning introspective, Ryan Curtis ponders his life’s path on “Through The Trees” and “This Town”. The former is a haunting Country Noir with Spaghetti Western flourishes that finds him taking solace in the bosom of nature. The latter song starts off as a Country ballad, before picking up the temp and adding piano and organ after the first verse. Seeking to explain the push and pull of his recklessness and remorse, Curtis admits, ‘I never thought I’d live long enough to worry about my past’. But in the end, he realizes and begins to make peace with the fact that your past follows you wherever you go. Although it “Ain’t Ever Easy”, to face up to the mistakes of our past, if we’re lucky we’ll at least get a few good stories out of them. And in Ryan Curtis’ case, a few good stories and a wonderful new subgenre that can only be described as Bakersfield Blues.
Listen and buy the music of Ryan Curtis from AMAZON
For more information, please visit the Ryan Curtis website
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