REVIEW: Justin Ryan – ‘Warm Whiskey Nights’

14358750_10154778291882697_5715959367639631246_nAs the year draws to an end and the mainstream releases dry up, it’s a good time to take stock and look around at other sources for our musical stimulus. If you have touched base with us recently you will probably be aware that we haven’t entirely embraced some of the recent musical output from the major artists. The recent albums from Kenny Chesney and Garth Brooks come to mind. Reasonable but not great, and a definite lack of consistency in relation to song selection.

By taking a detour and trawling the talent outside the premier league, it’s not hard to discover a few gems.  Unfortunately, the cream cannot rise to the top if you never look into the barrel and inevitably the selection process is based upon cursory dips. Justin Ryan is a perfect example of someone with huge talent that is easy to entirely overlook.

Confession time. The only reason I gave this album the attention it so obviously deserved was because I thought that he sounded a bit like Kip Moore on the opening track ‘Do A Little Dancin’. I know that this is a shallow way of exploring a new artist and I’m sure that Justin Ryan wouldn’t be hugely delighted to hear that the only reason we gave his album a full listen was because he sounded a bit like someone else. However, sometimes that’s all it takes, and you can be sure that we wouldn’t be reviewing this album and hopefully bringing it to your attention purely based on a moderate vocal similarity to Kip Moore.

Leaving that aside, let’s try to explore the Justin Ryan story. From what we can gather, this is his first full-length solo album, although he has worked as a musician for most of his life. His musical background was essentially non-country. He formed a four-piece rock band and spent 5 years touring the east coast of the US in the early 2000s. The band ‘All Together Spirit’ disbanded in 2010 and he began working as a duo called ‘Ryful’.

He formed his country rock band ‘The Justin Ryan Band’ recently, although the album appears to be Ryan working solo. He is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Association and has been contributing songs to this showcase. For a guy who appears to have a moderate country music heritage, he has created an album that thrives because of its dedication to the traditions that we hold dear.

In isolation, any of the 12 songs stand up and would merit inclusion on albums that will get far more attention than this one. Justin Ryan is a very good songwriter and deserves a wider audience.

There are a number of highlights. ’How Will I Know When It’s Over’ is one of them. The slide guitar introduction and Ryan’s vocals contribute to a song about heartbreak and separation. If you need any introduction to this guy’s music, load up your spotify player and let this song wash over you. The lead single and title track ‘Warm Whiskey Nights’ is a welcome release from our dark days of winter. Ryan’s story of summer nights accompanied by that very welcome slide guitar leaves no doubt about his country music credibility.

For someone who is steeped in rock music, the album actually refrains from up-tempo rockier tracks. The final cut ‘Love Me When I’m Raining’ is a six minute power house which lets loose the electric guitars, organ and drums, but the tempo of ‘Warm Whiskey Nights’ is generally laid back and harmonious. He has to plough a lone furrow without the backing of a record deal but has the benefit of a very solid album with 12 good songs.

I might have started off listening to Justin Ryan’s music because I thought he sounded like someone else, but this guy needs to be heard. Give it a try and let us know what you think.