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Songwriter/solo artists are strange animals. They’re typically solitary and prickly. They don’t move well in packs. It’s unusual for two such artists to find something in common magnetic enough to join forces over a common vision.
In the case of Matthew Ryan and Neilson Hubbard, this would seem a particularly difficult event. Each had already carved out a niche for himself, each was well-known and highly-praised by the critics. Steve Earle had referred to Ryan as, “one of the best songwriters I’ve seen come to Nashville,” and No Depression had claimed Hubbard’s music was, “a realm where melody, hooks and harmonies converge in a spirit of yearning and state of grace.” In addition, they come from opposite ends of the spectrum. Hubbard constructs songs like glimmering white birds – emotionally open, light and jubilant. Ryan’s songs are storm crows – heavy, world-weary and wise. Where Ryan loves The Clash and Leonard Cohen, Hubbard loves Bjork and Sinatra.
The songs on their debut are arresting. It is a sound that is sophisticated and pretty and smart. It is clean and simple. The purest example of this being “Cars & History” in which, over an acoustic guitar and hovercraft groove worthy of a Wes Anderson film, Ryan sings.
Another way to picture their differences: if they were filmmakers, Hubbard would be Truffaut and Ryan would be Scorsese.
It’s two polar artists blending into a single cohesive vision. It’s a classic rock and roll move to challenge one’s expectations from music. Tireless, hopeful, ambitious and hungry…
…It’s The Strays Don’t Sleep
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