GOSPEL SHIRT Jimmy Ryan & Hayride
There are a lot of mandolin maestros on the scene today, but nobody makes it rock quite like Jimmy Ryan. He's got a lot of musical muscle and is not short on attitude. This EP with Hayride crackles with life, captured by co-producers Billy Conway (who also plays some drums, when it's not Billy Beard) and Trina Shoemaker (who also does some singing). She's behind a lot of great records. We are very taken with the crew and vibe up at Hi-n-Dry recording in Boston, they really got it going on up there.
The core band, Hayride, is Billy Beard on drums, Andrew Mazzone on bass, and Duke Levine on guitar and harmonium, all 'A' team Boston guys on many records covered in the pages of Puremusic. Kevin Barry (whom we recently raved about in our interview with Lori McKenna) also shows up on lap steel.
To me, the flabby term Americana only means jack when speaking of artists like Ryan who are essentially, even viscerally, combining the building blocks of American music like Country, Folk, Rock, and Bluegrass. It's simply the case that many great artists today are interpreters of multiple forms, and so miss out on the opportunity to be marketed (booked, sold, or played on the radio) as strictly a Blues artist, or a Country artist. So I think that's where the term Americana is both dynamically viable and valuable, not for acts that fall between the cracks, but acts that bridge them.
A lot of Gospel Shirt does the hell out of that Rolling Stones kind of Country that many of us like so well: the opening tracks, "Breaks My Heart" and "Turn Around," are both in this vein. But my favorite cuts are the ambient cosmic Country ballad "Only Ever," featuring the spook steel of Kevin Barry, and the badass solo mando piece at the end, "Hardest Time."
My favorite singers and players have always been those that sound like people, not just like singers or players: where the spirit of the person comes rolling or roaring out of their throats or off the necks of their instruments. That's Jimmy Ryan all over. Check out this classic character on the Listen page, and buy Gospel Shirt here. Frank Goodman