- Greg & Aidan Ryan, the three, two, one
(Self-released, CD, digital)
It's intriguing to observe a prodigy over time. When a musician starts out with a lot of talent at a young age, it's impossible to predict how they might develop.
Aidan Ryan first entered the Vermont music scene playing beside his father, Greg, in the duo's original band, They Might Be Gypsies. At the time, Aidan was a precocious, 14-year-old guitar wunderkind. TMBG released two albums of mostly original compositions, steeped heavily in gypsy-jazz and Django Reinhardt-inspired arrangements. After 2011's Rendezvous, however, the band stopped releasing albums.
A decade later, the father-son duo is back, named more succinctly and armed with a melancholic, complex and overall gorgeous record. The Ryans are still creating moments of high-energy hothouse and instrumental swagger, but the three, two, one is all about showcasing Aidan's skill as a composer.
Greg or other artists wrote most of the songs on the first, self-titled TMBG record, as well as the second, Rendezvous. Aidan's influence grew on the latter with compositions such as "Rajana" and "Rumba V 2.0," which showed uncommon sophistication from such a young songwriter.
Aidan wrote eight of the 11 songs on the three, two, one. His guitar playing, full of imagination and soulful precision, colors the songs, but his compositions form the album's character.
"Caravan" is a deft, agile number that begins with a manouche jazz swing. Guest clarinetist Anna Patton, who makes frequent appearances throughout the album, plays notes that float through lush chord progressions, evoking a backdrop of city lights beckoning in the distance.
As the record rolls into the second track, "River," the tonal quality of the song builds until it feels like a 1,000-page novel — full of detail, color, intrigue and romance.
Greg's compositions hold their own, particularly the slow dance of "Cookie." His gruff vocals also make a welcome return on a cover of Pokey LaFarge's "Hard Times Come and Go." The track features vocals by Rani Arbo, who is one of way too many guest artists to list here. The album is chock-full of some of Vermont's best musicians.
They all perform brilliantly. But in many ways the musicians are like actors in a play who become characters in the tales Aidan tells with his multilayered compositions. Whether it's the dramatic, almost-dark shuffle and mazy guitar work of "The 321" or the pulsing nightclub jazz of "Havana," the songs on the three, two, one show that Aidan has come of age as a songwriter with a complete, fully realized album.
In addition to contributing his own accomplished guitar work, the elder Ryan produced the album. Greg clearly knows just how to capture his and his son's myriad styles. A darkness looms in the songs' tonal character throughout the album. It's an intriguing darkness, though, a hint of melancholy to bring the listener in closer.
Ten years is a long time between record releases, but witnessing Aidan's songwriting bloom was worth the wait.
Listen to the three, two, one on Spotify and Apple Music, or pop over to gregryan.us/greg-aidan-ryan to order the CD.