Ryan Montbleau has been a fixture on the Boston music scene for about twelve years; I have had the opportunity to see him several times with a full band and was thrilled to finally be able to see him in a solo acoustic show at one of his three sold-out performances at Club Passim. He was every bit as good as I expected him to be.
Seeing Ryan in this type of show highlights just how talented he is. His basic style is folk-rock, but there is a lot of Americana, funk, soul, and rhythm and blues in his music. I think I even heard some reggae riffs in one or two of the songs.
His prowess on the guitar was evident; his picking is excellent without being flashy (or maybe Ryan was honoring the history of Club Passim by letting his music, and not any antics, be the star of the show). He adds a percussive beat at times, both by knocking on his guitar and by using a drum pedal with his foot.
Ryan’s vocal style is interesting. At times he sounds (to me) as if he were singing from his nose, but do not interpret this to mean that he sounds nasal because he does not. Perhaps a better description is that he sometimes sings from the top of his throat rather than the base. There are also times when he speaks his lyrics rather than singing them (no, it is not rap). He sang songs of heartbreak as well as happy times.
He is releasing a new album in April, and sang several songs that will be on that album. I like what I heard; hopefully I will be able to attend one of the CD release shows.
The only negative to this show was the audience; there were many fans of his who had never been to the venue and had no idea what Club Passim is about. It is a listening room, and many people were screaming songs they wanted to hear (apparently there was someone who sounded like a foghorn at the previous show). There was also more talking than is generally heard there, and I attribute that to people who are used to going to large, standing venues where their conversation is to some extent drowned out by the music.
Still, it was a terrific show. I like Ryan both as a solo musician and as a leader of his band. Regardless of the configuration of the show, Ryan is an up-and-coming artist who is well worth seeing.
Michael Tarbox opened the show; he has been a fixture on the local acoustic music scene for a number of years. I enjoyed his short, bluesy set.
My photos from this show can be seen here.