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The Graham Album Review #2201

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Ryan David Green: Off and Running

(independent release, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 6/10/2024)

There are a lot of acoustic guitarists in the world, most of them plying their trade in service of accompanying a vocal, and in the case of acoustic guitar, usually folk-influenced. But there are a few acoustic guitarists who are known for their mostly instrumental music, among them John Fahey, Leo Kottke and the late Michael Hedges. This week, we have the solo debut by another first rate acoustic guitarist who has created a mostly instrumental album that is quite accessible, melodic and also shows some impressive virtuosity. It’s by Ryan David Green, and the album is called Off and Running.

Based in the Tuscon area, Ryan David Green is a graduate of he Berklee College of Music, and for over twenty years has been half of the duo Ryanhood, with lead vocalist and guitarist Cameron Hood. Earlier in 2024, Ryanhood was booked for a festival, when Hood became ill and could not make the performance, so Green decided to do it as a solo, playing mainly instrumental guitar, and it went over very well, so that inspired him to do this solo album. The result is a very appealing record that should find fans beyond guitar nerds.

Green plays multiple instruments, including bass, drums and keyboards, by overdubbing, and is also joined by some string arrangements from Ben Plotnick, whose own album we reviewed back in 2017, and notable jazz and pop drummer Jordan Perlson on one track. Green also does vocals on three tunes, and does a very respectable job. The styles range from folky to new age influenced, to impressionistic. Green shows his influence from Michael Hedges on some of the tunes from the distinctive tunings to the percussive tapping technique. But despite the way he stretches the conventions of acoustic guitar, the music remains very melodic. And the tunes tend to be quite succinct with only one piece over 4 minutes long. So the 11-track album times in at just 32 minutes.

Opening is probably the most produced sounding tune The Journey with Jordan Perlson’s drums, Green’s overdubbed layers of guitars and some subtle electronic effects. The track projects a sunny disposition, as do so many of the original pieces on the album. <<>>

The first of the vocals is Afterlife with somewhat metaphysical lyrics, and the nice string arrangement by Ben Plotnick. <<>>

One of the more contemplative-sounding pieces is called Reina da la Noche, or “queen of the night.” One can hear some of Michael Hedges’ influence on this nicely performed composition. <<>>

The title track Off and Running, is another of the vocals. It’s one of the highlights of the album, with the appealing but musically tricky tune, also featuring Plotnick’s tasteful string arrangement. <<>>

A piece called Time Is Not What You Think It Is shows some outstanding fingerpicking technique, which can be reminiscent of some Bruce Cockburn’s instrumental compositions. <<>>

In a Dream is a well-named piece with its atmospheric texture and ruminating quality. <<>>

The third of the vocals is I Fell which is lyrically a love song, while the musical accompaniment is also on the contemplative side. Kaitlyn Raitz is featured on the cello. <<>>

Another of the album’s highlights in terms of impressive guitar work is a composition called After the Rain which definitely evokes Michael Hedges’ style and tapping technique; which is meant as an unequivocal compliment. <<>>

In a world where acoustic guitarists are everywhere, it takes something special to stand out. Ryan David Green has done that with his new solo album Off and Running. With a fair amount of overdubbing and added instrumentation, it’s hardly actually a solo album, but the material is first rate, with a strong melodic sense. Although his guitar work is the salient feature of the album, I think we could have used a couple more vocal tracks, since he is an appealing singer. In his duo RyanHood, his partner Cameron Hood does most of the vocals, so that may have explained his reluctance. But in any case, the it’s a thoroughly pleasing album.

Our grade for audio quality is close to an “A” with a clean, warm sound on the guitar, and judicious use of studio effects.

There are some albums for die-hard guitar aficianados, which can show off blinding technique or compositional complexity. Ryan David Green gets in some impressive guitar work in an album that almost anyone can enjoy.

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This page last updated June 17, 2024