Ryan Sutherland – Sutherland – Review

Ryan SutherlandRyan Sutherland is a singer/songwriter based in Rochester, NY. Primarily incorporating elements of folk and blues, his new self-titled effort finds him expanding his sonic palette considerably. Not only is his slide playing more prevalent than on his previous release, he has also taken the plunge to become a one-man band, simultaneously providing drums along with his guitar and voice. Sutherland also finds him using these new sonic elements in more aggressive ways. Lyrically he has shown growth as well, his prose perfectly encapsulating the tenacity of the sound.

Ryan Sutherland – Sutherland

“Gideon’s Bible” opens the record. A time-signature-shifting jaunt, complete with fantastic slide playing, the song finds Sutherland discussing such things as his “thousand-year stare”, as well as the true cause of death of Jeffrey Epstein. Seemingly a lot of ground to cover in one song lyrically, but Sutherland strings together a narrative as comfortably disjointed as the songs’ changing rhythms. The slide playing really stands out here, with tone being an especially special aspect.

“Sludge” deals with pollution as well as personal disappointment. While the song maintains a steady tempo for most of the song, the pre-chorus slows down slightly, evidence of Sutherland’s penchant for playing with the timing. The latter half of the tune stays in this slowed-down space, really taking time to breathe and open up, allowing Sutherland the opportunity to really open up vocally as well.

“(Dead) Don’t Die”, starts out with a Spanish-influenced Surf music intro. This quickly fades into a minor-harmony examination of life & death. The surf music intro makes a return as a post-chorus, and then later as a transition into the solo section. Some of the rhythmic transitions here could be cleaned up a bit, but when one recalls that Sutherland is handling all musical duties simultaneously, it’s pretty easy to cut him a little slack.

The instrumental “It Ain’t Too Far” showcases Sutherland’s slide playing in spades. His tone and accuracy lay bare his natural ability with a slide. The music channels a touch of Derek Trucks but transcends direct comparison as the heavenly melodies cascade around each other to form a beautiful sonic landscape. As the song progresses the music takes a few left turns, surprising the listener with small tweaks in the harmony between the guitar parts.

The lead single from the album, “Keep Breaking Down”, is an energetic romp complete with harmonica playing and crashing drums. The lyrics continue on a personal level, with Sutherland singing “Merge with the hive mind / Don’t be afraid / Skin you alive boy / Ye of little faith”, a sort of micro/macro line that could equally be about one’s self or about society at large.

“Black Cats On The Moon” closes the record out. A slow, deliberate dirge, the song grows in emotion and pain until it swallows the listener near the end, allowing for some falling action as the music fades.

Sutherland is a big step forward for this talented musician. With time, one can only expect his music to improve as he continues to grow his sonic toolbox.

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