Album Spotlight: Ryan Sutherland - "Ryan Sutherland"
>>Somewhere along the highway, rolling hills and pine trees scrolling by your window, a wild blur of blues and greens, is Ryan Sutherland. A rolling stone who gathers no moss, Sutherland sounds as if he grew up down the street from Charlie Parr and occasionally sees him on the road. He’s more classic rock than blues, but more Jim Croce than Sturgill Simpson, with a dash of Chapin and a pinch of Dylan. It’s a recipe that doesn’t come up very often, one that you don’t see every day, an uncommon but intoxicating blend of sound that belongs on the road, heading from brewery to coffee house, to pique interest and make your toe tap.
Sutherland’s latest aptly titled Sutherland, sounds like a musician who’s maturing and starting to find the exact sound of their heart. The music clearly comes from within, a fact that might be accentuated by the repeated lyric of “Letting go” in the second track, Sludge. An album full of thoughtful tracks, laden with allargando and other tempo changes, Sutherland is letting go of a more traditional sound to find what works best for him. An acoustic guitar solo act brings up images of a flannel clad artist hunched on a stool, picking along the neck and cooing poems. This is not Sutherland.
It’s country blues and rock soaked in beer and cigarettes. It’s emotional without being cringey, thoughtful without being boring. It Ain’t Too Far is a great example, an instrumental that starts with a pretty finger picked back bone but takes you on a slide guitar ride. Those words don’t do the track justice, because it’s stranger and more fun than it looks on paper. There’s a je ne sais quoi to every track and maybe that’s the one-man band part of it, but it’s more than that.
Tempo changes, sudden strumming changes, and the breaks for guitar riffs make listening fun and entertaining. Every track has a live quality to it, a DIY garage effect that sounds like he’s in the room with you. In a lot of circumstances, it might take away from the music, not allowing you to hear everything equally or contain too much reverb and echo. But here it makes it sound cozy, as if Sutherland decided to skip your streaming experience for a much more personal one, coming over and setting up in your living room to play the album while you and your friends slug cans of Genny and sing along.
Sutherland has put out a lot of music since 2016 and listening back you can see him come into his own style, shaping and changing his sound as he became more comfortable behind the guitar and his kit. As he traverses from more of a folk sound to experimental, he’s developed a sound and his latest effort is named after himself for a reason.