An Intimate Evening with Ryan Montbleau
Ryan Montbleau has been a fixture on the Boston music scene for about 12 years, usually playing with a full band. For the past five years, he has done a solo acoustic run of shows — the past two years have seen three shows each. He was every bit as good solo as you would expect him to be if you had seen full-band shows.
This type of show highlights just how talented Montbleau is. His basic style is folk-rock, but there is a lot of Americana, funk, soul, R&B, and even a reggae riff or two in his music. His prowess on the guitar was evident this night. His picking is excellent without being flashy, or maybe he was honoring the history of Club Passim by letting his music, and not any antics, be the star of the show. Regardless, he adds a percussive beat at times.
Montbleau’s vocal style is interesting. At times he sounds as if he were singing from his nose, but this doesn’t mean that he sounds nasal. Perhaps a better description is that he sometimes sings from the top of his throat rather than the base. There are times when he speaks his lyrics rather than singing them.
His set consisted of both old and new songs — songs of happiness and heartbreak — with memorable lines like “You can tell me anything, just don’t tell me you got better things to do”; “I don’t spend every second smiling, but I look forward to every day”; and “Wise beyond my years / at least I used to feel that way / when I got my hot coffee in a paper cup”.
He also played a few covers, including songs by UB40 and Phoebe Snow — quite a range.
I was pleased that Montbleau’s audience got what it means to see a show at Club Passim. While the crowd last year was horrible, this year’s crowd was respectful of both the artist and the venue. It was a terrific show. I like Montbleau both as a solo musician and as a leader of his band. In either configuration, Montbleau is an up-and-coming artist who is well worth seeing.
Hayley Sabella opened the night. She has become a fixture on the local acoustic music scene but this was my first time seeing her. She sang one of my favorite songs, “Ma Vie en Rose,” which I enjoyed.