Ryan Montbleau Band
Label: Blue’s Mountain
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Review Date: April 19, 2015
“Growing Light” is the latest offering by songwriting monster, Ryan Montbleau. The 10 song treasure chest of new compositions are bold and barrier breaking, organically blending rock, funk, soul, folk and psychedelia to create a sonic kaleidoscope.
Growing Light is a “perfect storm” recording. The album pairs Montbleau’s most artfully crafted and sincere lyrics with vocal performances of exceptional grace and heart. The songs also benefit from the near-telepathic rapport of Montbleau and his band, which developed over a decade of touring. And those qualities are enhanced by the adventurous production of Galactic’s Ben Ellman and inventive mixing by Mikael “Count” Eldridge, who has worked with DJ Shadow, Radiohead and No Doubt.
Growing Light is also poignant and personal. Montbleau’s new songs trace the bloom-and-fade cycle of finding and losing love through the arc of a relationship. They also come at the end of a decade-long era with his band — a group who came of age together while touring the jam band circuit, where the Massachusetts-born Montbleau built his initial following.
Montbleau wrote nine of the ten songs. Some, like the title number, which celebrates the transcendence of falling in love over a swelling ambient-folk backdrop, are plucked from his own life. Others were developed on the road. The funky celebration “Glad” grew out of jams at concert sound checks and shines like a lost gem from ’70s psychedelic soul kingpin Shuggie Otis. And “Pacing Like Prince” flat-out rocks, with electric guitar riffs stomping over an R&B power-beat while Montbleau cants lyrics inspired by a scene in the movie Purple Rain.
The album ends with the bittersweet “Together,” a guitar and vocal performance that returns Montbleau to his beginnings as a solo artist. The song’s arrangement is a reminder that regardless of the degree of sweetness, illumination or spaced-out aural wallop that Ellman and Count bring to the album’s individual tunes, the warm butterscotch sound and multi-faceted emotional texture of Montbleau’s voice are always the focus.
If you’re looking for something musically new and with lyrical and melodic hooks that are thought provoking, Growing Light is your album.