I’m a big fan of un-slick, direct acoustic music. Mathew Ryan’s Concussion is just that – country music in the mold of Steve Earle, not Garth Brooks. Ryan’s music has the grit of rural red dirt, not the glint of Nashville rhinestones.
Ryan is aided by Richard McLaurin on pedal steel, acoustic guitar, and percussion, Clay Steakley on bass, Craig Krampf on drums, David Henry on cello, Park Ellis on harmonica, and Ray Kennedy on Harmonium. Lucinda Williams, the queen of alt-country, adds duet vocals to “Devastation” while Mack Starks contributes to “Somebody Got Murdered.”
As you might surmise by the album and song titles mentioned, there’s not much in the way of demulcent ditties in the Cowsills vein here. Most of the subject matter is grimmer than a rusty hypodermic needle. “Somebody got Murdered” sounds like Tom Petty in a narcoleptic haze. Good, though.
Concussion has about as much chance of getting airplay on hot country and hip rock stations as Tiny Tim singing Mahler. But just because it ain’t mainstream doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Concussion has a honesty and forthright musicality that is appealing despite its bleak world view and demeanor. Give it a listen, but not right after your divorce comes through, okay?
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Nov. ’01 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.