Thursday, April 19, 2007

Matthew Ryan

Nobody buys Matthew Ryan records. First, he has one of those nondescript names that nobody remembers (it would help not to have two first names. So go with a pseudonym, Matthew; I recommend Ryan Adams). Second, he looks like a plumber, not a rock star. Third, he has one of those raspy, gargle-with-Drano voices that sound offputting and corrosive to people weaned on Clay Aiken and Faith Hill.

But he can sure write some great songs. He's released six albums in the last ten years, and he's getting better and better. His latest, called From a Late Night High Rise, is haunted by the death of a close friend and the news of his brother's sentence to thirty years in prison. It's not exactly upbeat material, but then again, that's not exactly upbeat news, and it's easy to find some 3:00 a.m. moments of pensive instrospection there that will break your heart.

Ever since Monday I've been listening to one of his old songs from his debut album Mayday. It's a scary, spooky song, and these are scary, spooky times. I listen to it and think about the ghosts that haunt the classrooms and hallways in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The dead girl mopes through a dead scene
With a cross-stitched lip she's picking at the seam
She's got bravado she says she's been
Featured in a few magazines
Now outside the bar Hank is straddling a police car
His fingers are purple and numb from circling a crow bar
Well twenty-four years have made it clear that things ain't ever what they appear

He says
I won't be going easily
No I won't be going lightly
And I won't be going peacefully
No I won't be going innocently

A sweet drink spiked with a speedball
A twenty-foot ladder and a ninety-foot wall
Dark shadows are gathering and swaggering down the hall

And I know
I won't be going easily
No I won't be going lightly
And I won't be going peacefully
No I won't be going innocently
-- Matthew Ryan, "The Dead Girl"


Anonymous said...

To each his own, but I would never in a million years classify either Clay Aiken's or Faith Hill's voices as raspy. In fact, quite the opposite. Both have very clear, pure voices in my opinion. But then what do I know - both my parents were professional singers and my mother taught voice for many years.

Andy Whitman said...

Umm ... yeah. I think you're making my point.

mg said...

i just listened to some tracks on his myspace page. he's kinda got a leonard cohen thing going on.

i like it.

Anonymous said...

I love the tone and power of both Clay and Faith but that is not all I like . This guy sounds interesting and I love the lyrics . I will check him out . Thanks .

John McCollum said...


Not sure why I'm commenting on this, but...I never understood the Clay Aiken thing. Even within the context of the national karaoke contest that is American Idol, I never got why people liked him.

He sounds like an average church soloist or a slightly below average broadway singer, and has zero pop appeal.

But that's just me. And it's not that I don't like 'clear and pure' voices. Ella Fitzgerald was great.