Album Review: Ryan Brewer’s “Trails”
It is that all at once he is so certain about what he has to say and how he is going to say it, while simultaneously expressing bouts of uncertainty. If you are reading this, I hope my review will encourage you to try his music out–it moves you intellectually, emotionally, and physically. The following are my thoughts on what I am certain is a collection of fantastic music.
Ryan Brewer has a brevity about him that is precisely complemented by his musicianship. His higher-ranged voice that can calm you or rock out belts out very honest lyrics that are backed up by very deliberate guitar and piano playing. If you pay no attention at all to the lyrics, you will find some of the tracks making you dance. The hidden gem is that he is saying a lot of brutally honest things most of us wouldn’t say. He even addresses that point, as well.
There is so much certainty in this album. Ryan is not afraid to toss aside the filter and get down to the point he is trying to make. If you are looking for someone to say the things you thought would get you into trouble (if you said them), boy is this music for you! Are you dwelling on the operations of the world and personal relationships, inter- or intra-? Like cold water to the face, Ryan presents these situations to rejuvenate your attention and mind.
1. Two Cents
About realizing how one thinks the world works and exists as being completely incorrect, Ryan presents you with a preface for what is to come. “Confirming” on your own how everything is supposed to work is not a concrete plan. With just piano and a lovely voice that twists disdain into pain, he gives you the, “You know what? Let’s talk about this,” preparation for the rest of the album.
2. What Are You Mad About?
“She spends her money to get that loose/liquor type of love.” With harmonies galore, listen to Ryan call a spade a spade.
3. What You Think
Ryan is great at writing catchy hooks with such an enjoyable rustic/Americana/back-woods-but-is-a-city-boy flavor. For me this song is about all of those great connections you feel toward someone; the romanticization, the cute idiosyncrasies, the sex, the joy–EXCEPT not wanting anything serious. There can be a great, deep, passionate affinity toward someone, but serious relationships have to be mutual.
4. Numbers and Names
This has been on non-stop repeat, for me. Something about iv I6 IV progressions will always soothe my singer-songwriter bones. Ryan slow dances through those chords, discussing doubt and hesitation, nostalgic reflection, only to make a quick turn, musically and intellectually. With his Americana/acoustic IV7 and vocal “ooh” backings he turns the song into an anthemic proclamation:
“What about love? What about tenderness? What about the faces and these places on our list? What about peace? What about liberty?”
Pull out your flag, your lighter, and your opinions for this one, folks. Let it prompt you to reevaluate what is important to you. Also, Ryan has a falsetto–it is pretty.
5. Burned and Blinded
Sometimes the only way to say (out loud, specifically) that things are not going well for you (without breaking down) is to say it with a smile. This song is that forced musical-smile.
It is FUN music! Ryan’s Midwest roots come out here with back porch, foot-stompin’ guitar playin’! But Ryan has no back porch. Ryan is not a foot stomper. The music is intentionally ironic and sarcastic behind the lyrics. If your heart is broken, say so. But say it with a smile. Your feelings might morph themselves into happier, clearer, thinking-ahead ones.
6. Truth Is
MmmMmm a capella! (+ some small percussion…)
Ryan shows his musical prowess here. Singing every part, so beautifully and accurately, he makes it catchy. He makes it very catchy. Lyrically, however, he is trying to one-up his musical prowess! How his songs haven’t gotten him into relationship troubles (and perhaps they have…) I do not understand!
This is a captivating performance. Lamenting about extinguished love, with such certainty in his feelings, one can connect to this song immediately. Be it by means of lyrical relation, or musical stimulation, one will find empathy in this tune.
I also have no problem going on record saying that at 2:30 in the song, building up to the song’s climax, when Ryan sings, “…acting as though it is all well and fine…” his voice his sexy. I said it.
7. Glad I Know
“I remember when you said nose rings were trashy.” By now in the album with an opening line like that, you can tell where Ryan’s intentions lay. With a comfortable foot-tapping (not *stompin’!) acoustic guitar walk, Ryan gives a, let’s say “thoughtful”, farewell to a wrongdoer.
I believe it is important not to have regrets. When you think about relationships, or acquaintances, you should not have any regrets or regrettable people. But, that doesn’t mean some of them won’t have turned out to be total wankers. This might be my favorite “middle finger” song.
8. Pretty Girls Everywhere
I think that the album is emotionally anchored around this song. Ryan’s longest song, it sort of mirrors perhaps a long journey he had been on to learn about himself. Can’t we all relate?
Over the course of Ryan’s career, going on multiple tours, as a musician playing most nights, he would have had time to compartmentalize tons of emotions, tons of questions. What is life? What is waiting for me back home? How do I feel about myself? Etc.
And it’s so easy as a listener to ask these questions because he is already incredibly honest in his music.
Openly talking about self-doubt, and publicly self-criticizing one’s perceived faults is not in the equation for creating high record sales. But Ryan is not about *record sales. He is an advocate for integrity, a supporter of love, and a musician who has something powerful to say.
*Though, do buy his album.
9. Tear The World Apart
Here is where we chronologically confirm through the album that one can establish confidence. Every song leading up to this one has stories of doubt and separation. We hear Ryan’s self-acceptance (not that he didn’t have it to begin with, but the musical timeline is there).
Of love and happiness, and a slowly building musical backdrop, you can hear the rumblings towards the gated doors.
“Kick them down and seize the day!” I hear at the end of the song.
Need to be reminded that you have confidence in yourself? Take this tune and call me in the morning.
10. All Ears
The final track is Ryan’s own summary. “This is who I am. Here are my issues. Dammit, let’s fix them.”
“I’m man enough to know I’m not ready to be grown. I’ve still got dreams of never getting old.”
With a laid back and awesome bridge that still has high intensity, Ryan finally arrives at the point, “I’m all ears.” He is. We know he is “all ears.” How could one be so articulately aware of their feelings and surroundings, write this type of beautiful and shockingly honest music, and not be “all ears?”
Ryan Brewer is an articulate, poetic, talented musician. This album Trails is a collection of the types of self-realizations and innermost feelings a lot of people don’t want to share. His music is fun, intriguing, honest, and certain. He may sing about doubt, but there is no doubt in his execution.