I need to preface this review by saying, it’s probably not fair I review this record. I already have a pre-existing adoration for Jimmy Ryan’s work and quite honestly, him as a person. A completely unassuming guy, with an incredible talent and way of awing a room of pretty much any size. You simply cannot deny that Jimmy is a true mandolin maestro, a master of his art and a gift to our fair city’s music community…that being said, this is a new record, it was sent to my attention by his PR folks, I haven’t heard it before and I am going in head first.
The new 8 track release from Boston’s master of the mando, Jimmy Ryan, is entitled ‘Readville’ (I am guessing it has a link to the town on the commuter rail line). There is an effortless, mild grit and break to Jimmy’s voice that is undoubtedly sincere and occasionally vulnerable (especially exhibited on the song “Every Word”). A breath of fresh air amongst some of the "all too put on" crooners that the genre often unearths. Ryan has a way of pulling the vocal melody into his mandolin lines and embellishing the heck out of it. Something that makes you go “hey that’s familiar…holy crap, did you just hear what he played?!” But Jimmy isn’t a vain player, you can tell he really is playing because it’s what he loves and was born to do. Plus he shares that spot light with some really talented other folks as well…
Track 2 (“Peace Down in my Soul”) is an “organized chaos, drunken sing along caught on tape” type of a track. A ‘friends sitting around a table, trading songs and shots” type of song where everyone catches on and sings on the chorus. The next track, “All the Hearts” demonstrates the softer side of the songwriter, telling the story of a woman who loses her sister and best friend…a little bit of sadness and heartache goes a long way here. Track 6, titled “Just Like You” brings us back to the drunken, pumped up ramble of a man who loves his whiskey almost as much as he loves his lady…all eight tracks are fantastic and present a wide range of what this band is capable of.
I love this record because I feel like I am down in the basement at the Lizard Lounge or hanging at Toad, watching a bunch of friends making music together. It’s a well produced and great sounding album, but it still manages to harness the feeling that these guys know each other and play together all the time over a few pints…and love every minute of it. Jimmy and co. (Dave Westner – drums, guitars, keys, percussion; Ed Riemer – bass, harmony vocals) have constructed an excellent collection of 8 studio tracks with the feel and vigor of a live performance. The potential for audience participation, the unyielding desire to clap and stomp your feet that the band instills into the listener, and the energy that is presented throughout the course of the record is uncanny. Mr. Ryan really boasts no comparison for me. This is something that as a part of this town’s music scene you simply know and love. Something that is remarkably familiar, but you are incapable of merely putting a finger on. This project is a definite winner in my book.
Check out Jimmy Ryan online at www.jrmando.com
And release party information:
CD RELEASE PARTY: Wednesday, March 13, Lizard Lounge, 1667 Mass.
Ave., Cambridge (617-547-1228), with Duke Levine (guitar), Kevin Barry (lap
steel), Billy Beard (drums) and Richard Gates (bass)