Mike P. Ryan – American Tales (Independent)
Oklahoma-born singer-songwriter Mike P. Ryan is something of a find. His blue-collar narratives are touching and heartfelt, and whether he’s accompanying himself on acoustic guitar or employing various country-roots instruments (pedal steel, fiddle, etc.) to fill out the sound, his songs are always placed centre-stage – which is just where they belong. He’s a consummate storyteller, with arrangements to match, and he delivers his songs in a voice that will remind many of James Taylor. That’s an impressive list of positives, and listening to “American Tales”, it’s just as good in reality as it is on paper.
Ryan’s been playing guitar and writing songs for as long as he can remember, although “American Tales” is his debut recording. I suspect the reason it’s taken him so long to find his way into a studio is that real life has a habit of getting in the way of artistic endeavour. Work and raising his family were priorities, but all his life experiences make him the writer he is today, and throughout this 13-track collection, there’s a feeling that Ryan’s telling stories that he’s witnessed firsthand or heard passed down from friends and relations. It adds considerably to the listening experience, and on songs like the homesick trucker’s lament “Morning Glories” or “A Girl's Gotta Do” he nails his subject matter with subtlety and a warm understanding. My favourite is “Oklahoma Sky”, which features some wonderful playing from Ryan, and is a cleverly constructed paean aimed squarely at his home state.