Matthew Ryan - Concussion
"Concussion" was swiftly recorded in Nashville in eight days. Influenced musically and culturally by Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Karl Marx and Joe Strummer the album album is apparently "a sober ten song reflection on common people and common tragedies". You'd have to be in a melancholic, reflective state of mind to appreciate this album as it requires your full attention. The music is low key and quietly hypnotic with each song so rich in detail and drenched in emotion. The words are chosen so carefully to evoke images of lyrical beauty that you begin to realize that Matthew Ryan knows the people, situations and places intimately.
"Happy Hour" is an ironic title considering the deteriorating lifestyles many of the characters inhabit. It's a little glum, but such sad circumstances are. The mournful mood is created by David Henry's cello and Richard McLaurin's pedal steel. It's tells the tale of the life's of many damaged people who escape the harsh realities by escaping to their local hostelry for relaxation and to meet kindred spirits. "Devastation" really highlights Matthew Ryans distinctive gravely, throaty vocals which is levelled by guest vocalist Lucinda Williams who adds a femininity to this tale of loneliness. On "Night Watchman" Ryan embodies the spirit of Bob Dylan, so alike is his voice on this song. More bluesier than the other tracks, but that's probably down to Park Ellis putting all his heart and soul into his fine harmonica playing. This slice of life in song form tells the tale of crime, suicide and domestic violence.
The only song on "Concussion" not written by Ryan is the Clash's "Somebody Got Murdered" which is a worth tribute to punk's premier spokesman. In just over forty minutes Matthew Ryan takes us on a mesmerizing journey about the extraordinary lives of everyday people in a way that entertains as well as educates.
Nicholas Paul Godkin
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