album reviews

Matthew Ryan
Matthew Ryan vs. the Silver State
00:02:59 (2007)

Matthew Ryan sure has done a lot of jumping around in his 11-year career: He has released 11 albums, never sticking with the same label more than twice. That history gives him an air of restlessness, but what comes across more on his latest CD, "Matthew Ryan vs. the Silver State," is weariness and frustration that probably grew from the recent incarceration of his brother and the death of a close friend.

Ryan's sorrow manifests itself most in his scratchy voice, but his delivery so often feels like an homage to Tom Waits that it's difficult to focus on Ryan's own style (the dramatic "Jane, I Still Feel the Same" sounds particularly Waitsian). Those breathy, theatrical vocals overpower "American Dirt," which is unfortunate considering everything else Ryan has going for him. His imagery and the simple yet precise instrumentation of his three-piece backing band are exquisite, but they would be even more powerful if the edge in his voice were just a little softer.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 5 September 2008, Page WE08
.: Matthew Ryan vs. the Silver State on