File Under: Country, Singer/Songwriter
The pleasant contrast to my Ferrall On The Bench induced nausea (see previous post for that breakdown) was Timothy Ryan’s Dog Days EP. The week long date went smoothly for my ears from start to finish and there isn’t much misery to account for, so let’s get right down to it. Blatant forshadowing. Boom.
I go into each of these releases blind, but I still need some sort of selection process. That process is cover art. So basically the opposite of being literally blind, but music-wise it still leaves me uninformed. I can gather a few preconceived notions, but that’s all assumption and often far from reality. When I picked Dog Days, I sensed Seattle hipster music given the coffee shop/denim jacket pictured. What I got, however, was country that actually doesn’t suck all that much.
The EP starts out with “Same Ol’ Blues,” an upbeat track about a breakup with what I’d classify as an upbeat outlook on life by the end of the song. I’m not a fan of the title for that reason; it doesn’t feel like the blues. Breakups are sad, sure, but he’s not really selling the sadness if that’s his intention. It’s a bouncy track full of background “oohs” and “ahhs” and at 2:01 it makes for a rather quick listen. Not very bluesy. I don’t feel blue after listening at least.
Continuing the trend of broken relationships, “Love Ain’t Enough,” brings in the harmonica for added feels. It’s a catchy number I’ve found myself singing lines from throughout the week, even though the lyrics are by far the weakest contribution. Clichés abound in this one with lines like “we were a fire burning bright,” or “I never meant for you to feel like it’s always raining.” But that’s not as bad as the questionable “I never meant to bring you down when you felt up.” Not necessarily a cliché, but I can think of at least two ways that line is, well, a wrong choice of words. Regardless, the song has more of a soul to it, and feels more organic than “Blues”.
“Night Drives” is my favorite of the three and a nice closer to the EP. Sticking with the theme of failed romantics, it is a stripped down, mostly bare bones song about driving past his past at night. It’s both the most country and the most honest song of the EP. Ryan’s voice plays in a lower register that allows the sincerity to flow without seeming like he’s trying very hard. The other two fell a bit into that trap and I wish he could be as grounded in them as he is here. I found myself playing the EP more than I expected, just to return to “Night Drives.” My only problem is the opening line, where I’m sure he means to sing “I drove by my old house today,” but it comes out as “I drove my own house today.” I’ve played that opening 20 seconds an extensive number of times and it continually sounds muddled. Nothing worth lowering my score, but worth pointing out nonetheless.
All in all, Ryan proves himself as a talented singer/songwriter, but instead of simply prevailing as versatile he also shines a light on what work he has yet to accomplish. That work is finding his real sound. These tracks, while all enjoyable, showcase what feels like a different musician. In other words: good songs don’t necessarily equate to a good album. There’s just a slight disconnect in his voice. Country might not be my jam, but he’s not singing about trucks or attempting contemporary country-rock. He’s harking back to an era defined by Johnny Cash, and if he can put his own distinct twist on it I’m all for that. He’s got the production, he’s got the talent, he just needs to step back and look at the bigger picture.
Going on a blind date with Dog Days: