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Ryan Lee

Always a River

Review by Gary Hill
There is a lot of roots music built into this. Alternative rock is at its heart, too. This works really well at times. There is a bit of monolithic texture at points, though. I have to think that it might have been a stronger set with a few less songs. Still, everything taken by itself works pretty well. A lot of people just listen to single songs these days, anyway.
 
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Abandon

The little stabs of guitar strum on this are a bit tedious and repetitive. The vocals, with their sort of intimate vulnerability sell the piece despite that. It gets more rocking as it continues. That takes it into some rather odd Americana territory for a while.

With a Wolf
More of a rocker, this has a real roots vibe to it. There is a pretty good range on this number. It's a stronger tune than the opener, by a long shot. It has some Celtic sound built into it, too.
Toward the Sun
While there is still some definite roots music here (particularly a Celtic rock edge), this is more of an alternative rocker.
Migrate
More along the lines of moody alternative rock, this makes good use of the contrast between mellower and more rocking music. It's also got some particularly soaring vocals. Those things make this one of the highlights of the set.
Simple
This is more of the same. It's a solid alternative rocker with roots at its heart, but it's a bit too samey.
Inside the Hush
A bit mellower, this is a bit of variety. It's one of the stronger tunes here merging folk music and alternative rock. The vocal arrangement here really shines.
Wish
There is a decent energy here and a catchy chorus. The blend of folk and rock here just feels a bit too like a lot of the rest. It's kind of a shame because taken by itself this is a very strong cut. It can't stand out well amidst too much similar stuff.
Immigrant
More purely folk, there is a bit of a Celtic edge to this. It works better than some of the rest, but does suffer from the monolithic texture.
Sowing / Weeping
Here is some much needed variety. This has a bouncy kind of alternative rock energy. It's actually not one of the stronger cuts, but the change it brings elevates it.
Dear Libra
Another that's very stripped back and mellow, this one manages to stand tall based on some evocative passages and lyrics.
Spark
Starting in the mellower modes and working out to more rocking territory, this is a solid tune.
Nature Boy
Another that's quite mellow, this has some definite alternative rock, and perhaps even some art rock built into it. It's moody and very evocative. This might be my favorite song here. It just works so well.

 

Always a River

Alternative rock and roots music seem to merge on this classy number. It has a bit of an art rock edge, too. This is another highlight of the set and a great closer.

 

 

 
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