New album stands out from other local acts
More than anything else, the best reason to hear Ryan Paul Davis' new record is to be reminded that there is real musical diversity coming from independent East Texas songwriters.
With brooding lyrics and extremes of tempo and volume, the emotionally-fraught songs don't make for background music. The lead track, "Drown Again" starts slow and builds up slower, with a melancholy blues riff that repeats and multiplies and evolves into a gritty melody in counterpoint with an austere cello bass line.
And so it goes for the rest of the album. Stomp boards, electric cellos, mandolins and piano lines add complicated textures to an already moody soundscape. Each listen offers something new to notice and pay attention to.
One thing you can't help paying attention to is Davis's singing, which at times could pass for Kurt Cobain's wrenching wails and, at other times, hovers softly above a whisper. Davis exacts fine control over his raspyness and the precise pitches at which his vocals crack. His chameleonic vocals are a kind of barometer for the intensity of the music, indicating upcoming storms of intensity.
The 11 tracks follow each other in a carefully considered order, resisting the increasingly popular tendency to hear single tracks on customized playlists. The record boasts a brief cello-only interlude dividing the record into rough halves, whose semantic distinctions are best left for the listener to determine.
In short, the record sounds like little else you might hear locally. And even as the themes and motivations for his songs are universal (sadness, longing, boredom, restlessness), the images of Nacogdoches and Austin that pepper the album art suggest a local hue to colorize the sound.
The album probably won't make the Top 40, but that's OK, because it's best heard when you want to feel exactly what he's offering, not in the background at a club or when you're trying to order drive-through.
Davis is a local artist who did most of the work on this moving album by himself, and for that, the locals ought to be proud themselves.
-Matthew Stoff, The Daily Sentinel
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