The Ryan Montbleau Band’s most recent album was produced by Martin Sexton, and they’re fresh off a tour as the singer-songwriter’s opening act and backing band.
Ryan Montbleau Band
Heavy On the Vine
[Blue’s Mountain (2010)]
Quick, answer a question. How can you sing about a “bangin’ hat from Bangladesh” and not only have it work (and seem kind of sexy) but also sound authentic? The answer is simple: be in the Ryan Montbleau Band and write fabulous blues songs like “More and More and More.”
It’s immediately apparent how talented a talented singer/songwriter Mr. Montbleau is. And in 2007, right around the time his fourth studio album dropped, he was named Boston’s Best Local Male Vocalist. His sixth release in eight years, Heavy on the Vine, has enough to make fans twitch with glee. Vine is fantastic and devoid of filler; the track “Lonesome Serenade,” for example, would absolutely win the title of “Best song to listen to on a second date (with a bottle of wine and a grin).”
There are tons of homages — the seemingly Stevie Wonder-inspired “Stay” and “Fix Your Wings,” the Jack Johnson-esque “My Best Guess,” the rockabilly “I Can’t Wait,” and the steel drumming of “Songbird” — which, while wonderful, sound derivative. But although these tracks are pitch-perfect and engaging on their own, such diversity leads to the album′s major flaw, which is that it lacks cohesion and an overarching voice.
The best songs by far are those that seem like they come straight from Montbleau himself and his own aesthetic. Listen to “Chariot (I Know).” Take a few minutes. Then listen to it again. It’s impossible to say what influences this piece, but there is something about it both ethereal and weighty. This is what Montbleau is all about: delicate rambunctiousness and soulful indulgence. If every song had the same energy, lively pulse-pounding sound and introspective wordy delight of “Chariot” or “Here et al.,” there would be no debate about just what the voice of the Ryan Montbleau Band was, and Heavy on the Vine would not leave one wanting a whole lot more.
Overall, a delightful but strangely unsatisfying listen.
—Mike Tager (Baltimore, MD)
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