Saturday, February 2, 2008

Ryan Scott: Smoke and Licorice

I don't know why it has taken me so long to write about this guy, but after listening to his album for the 50th time, I felt compelled.

It all started one rainy New York night back in November, I think. I was going to the Mercury Lounge to check out a local NY favorite, Charlie Hunter. On the bill as the opener was Ryan Scott, a name I had heard of but couldn't place a face to. I realized he was signed to Velour Records, a label I worked for a few years ago. Ryan hadn't been picked up when I was with Velour; but once while I was perusing their list of new artists I noticed his name and listened some tunes on the player.

I have to admit, back then I didn't give the tunes a second thought. Perhaps it was the mood I was in, perhaps it was the time of day. Whatever the reason, I forgot about him completely.

Then comes the show at the Mercury Lounge. I decided to go early and see what kind of stuff Ryan was playing. I proceeded to be absolutely floored by his performance. I went in expecting some run-of-the-mill singer songwriter tunes, but I was truly rocked. Ryan was performing with 3 others, bass, drums, and a back up harmony singer. I was captivated from start to finish. Ryan not only has an incredibly expressive and honest voice, but he wails on the guitar like a bad-ass blues/jazz guy who decided to turn his amp up. His songs were heart-felt and his persona was very intitmate and inviting. The club was only half-full at this point and I got a very warm vibe from the people around me. Everybody was totally attentive. Usually at small clubs in New York I am put off by all the people talking during the sets. On this night, the whole audience fell silent every time Ryan opened his mouth or plucked his guitar.

After the concert I had a short chat with him and thanked him for the performance, and he proved to be a very nice dude; very grateful and personable. Me and some friends picked up the CD before heading back in to see Charlie Hunter. (a little side note: after charlie played his set, John Mayer showed up randomly and played a solo acoustic set at 3 am for about 50 people, and Ryan was still the best part of the night)

The album was just as good as the show. It reminds me a bit of Jeff Buckley, the way he blends ambient textures with clean instrumental sounds. It was a very consistent vibe the whole way through without getting too repetitive. It doesn't strike as particularly innovative or new, but that doesn't seem to be what he wants. The album blends jazz, rock, blues, folk and all the little genres in between yet still maintains a suprisingly cohesive sound. His rock-solid vocals really tie everything together. His words tell stories and the riffing guitars fill in the gaps between literal ideas. This kind of music usually wears thin fast for me, but i'm still hearing new things each time I listen to these songs, which is quite frequently.

If you want to hear Ryan's music online, there are a couple places to do it.

Click Here to visit his myspace. Visit to buy his new CD. Here is a nice little radio performance/interview where he performs some songs not previously recorded; and below is a little video about his latest album, Smoke and Licorice.

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