Review by Duane Davis
Uh Oh! I know what you’re thinking: ‘New Country Sounds’! Merle Haggard with an iPhone and a White claw? Gram Parsons on a yoga mat busting out a Supine Pigeon Pose?? Another Millennial cowboy trying to Waltz Across Brooklyn???
Nope. What we have is a fine set of folk inflected C&W songs that, while they are polite enough to not track cowflop across your living room rug, will still kick up plenty of sawdust on the honky-tonk hardwood dance floor.
There is a comfortable, broken-in feeling to the songs, familiar means, methods and melodies dusted off, brightened up and set loose with some very fine pedal steel guitar incising the songs like carving on old ivory.
It is, though, Ryan’s voice and lyrics that carry the songs. Delivered in a voice that is at once warm and wary, the lyrics pull back the curtain on a decidedly modern world where all those helicopter moms and participation trophies haven’t quite made the paradise they were meant to — there is a rootless, restless nostalgia for a world probably known only through old TV reruns, an almost autistic shock of disorientation where sitting in his childhood room, Ryan realizes the ‘things I loved just don’t hit like they used to’ but those things still ask him to ‘remember the Last Yee Haw’.
Definitely more Silver Jews than Rhinestone Cowboy, one of my favorite songs here is ‘Tried To Write A Song Today’, a melancholy plaint about how the muse sometimes just doesn’t want to come down for a visit — but here we have a lovely song drawn from that frustration.
It is probably impossible to make a completely un-ironic Country album in the 21st century but there is something bedrock and steady in Ryan’s songs and even though he says ‘everyone I leave I leave without turning around’ there is still the rueful return: ‘I want to live like a yo yo.’
Find The New Country Sounds of Ryan Wong LP at Wax Trax or online here.