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The Boston Phoenix Matthew Ryan

Mayday

By Chris Erikson

OCTOBER 13, 1997:  Listening to Mayday, the debut from 25-year-old singer-songwriter Matthew Ryan, you may find yourself thinking the new Dylan has finally arrived -- the new Jakob Dylan, that is. Ryan, a Pennsylvania native now based in Nashville, traffics in the kind of moody and melodic square-deal rock that A&M is no doubt hoping will appeal to fans of the Wallflowers.

Which is not to dismiss Mayday, an impressive enough debut that invites comparison with folks like Bruce Springsteen, the Waterboys' Mike Scott, and even, occasionally, Jakob's dad. Ryan is a smart lyricist who relentlessly mines themes of heartbreak and loss -- perhaps a little too relentlessly. But he digs up some nice imagery along the way. "Now memory is just a flash flood/A thick and black sticky mud/And heartache it's like a breaking bone," he sings on "Irrelevant," with strangled phrasing and a graveled rasp. That voice sounds mannered, but it also conveys just the right measure of intimacy and emotional depth.

-- Chris Erikson


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