East Autumn Grin
On his first record, 1997’s Mayday, Matthew Ryan won comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits and Paul Westerberg. His latest, East Autumn Grin, is likely to add a couple more to the list. The opening “3rd of October” sounds like vintage Unforgettable Fire-era U2 (think “Bad”) with chunky Edge-like guitar (think “Sunday Bloody Sunday”) and even a Bono-like falsetto to go with Ryan’s customary gravelly mumble. The song builds to a soaring, swirling climax as Ryan sings “I don’t wanna lose myself/I don’t wanna lose you/I don’t wanna be humbled by the truth.”
Ryan’s voice is a limited instrument, but it is a voice with character and when it is surrounded with solid musicianship in service to a great song, it works like crazy. Fortunately, that’s the case more often than not on East Autumn Grin. His songs of lost love and personal searches set just the right tone, somewhere on the road between optimism and nostalgia.
“The World Is On Fire” and “Still Part Two” also visit U2 territory. “Heartache Weather” sounds more like early Waterboys. “Sunk” is a little too down beat, and Ryan’s voice wears out its welcome a bit. “Sadlylove” on the other hand is so catchy and well arranged, Wendy O. Williams could sing it and it’d still be a great song. The track brings to mind likeminded singer-songwriter (and fellow Nashvillian) Josh Rouse, who coincidentally guests on “I Hear a Symphony.” The record also features appearances by Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner (trumpet on “Ballad of a Limping Man”) and former Concrete Blonde frontwoman Johnette Napolitano (backing vocals on “Sunk” and “The World is On Fire”). David Ricketts (Sheryl Crow, David & David) adds keyboards and guitar throughout the record.
On East Autumn Grin, this twentysomething singer-songwriter from working class Pennsylvania gives one hope that the future of music may be in good hands after all.
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