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Ryan Sweezey, 'Out Searching'

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Published August 10, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.


Ryan Sweezey, Out Searching - COURTESY
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  • Ryan Sweezey, Out Searching

(Self-released, digital)

Singer-songwriter Ryan Sweezey, from South Burlington via Lynnfield, Mass., sat on his latest album for two years. Recorded at Burlington's Studio 150 with local producer Chris Hawthorn, Out Searching represents the clearest, most concise offering of Sweezey's wares. So why the delay? Like many other artists who completed records during the pandemic, Sweezey didn't want to throw his new music into a void.

That's understandable when an artist knows they've caught lightning in a bottle, as Sweezey has with Out Searching. The eight-song album takes the '90s alt-pop sound Sweezey has been cultivating since he moved to Vermont in 2017 and dials it up to 10. Love the Gin Blossoms? Find yourself slow-jamming to Barenaked Ladies at the gas station while you fill the tank? Sweezey is for you.

"Honest Liar" kicks things off, full of gentle, mid-tempo rocking and Sweezey's clear, straightforward vocals. His songwriting is nuanced, mixing self-reflection with clever asides, and he's well practiced at jamming a lot of melodic turns into his playing and singing. It's obvious this is a musician who has played countless gigs by himself with just an acoustic guitar.

Sweezey and Hawthorn fill out the record's sound with careful precision, aided by some of Burlington's best musicians, including Caleb Bronz (Barika) on drums and Shay Gestal (Tom Pearo) on the fiddle. Jay Barclay, the touring guitarist for San Diego rockers Augustana, recorded his parts at a Nashville, Tenn., studio.

"You've got a face that's in the crowd / and I've got a head that's in the clouds," Sweezey croons on "Only You." The song ties into the record's recurring motif of a man looking to find his home — and, of course, love. Sweezey is indeed out searching: for the love of his life, for a home to grow old in, for peace of mind in a turbulent world. But rather than tear at his beard or wail about the unfairness of life, he makes sunny, poppy soft rock to soundtrack the transition from youth to middle age.

One may feel inclined to stick Sweezey's work in a folder full of Counting Crows and Dishwalla covers. And, sure, there are moments on Out Searching when Sweezey's retro influences overtake his songs. "Kings of the Broken" legitimately gave me a flashback to my first year of college in the late '90s, stumbling around campus and hearing bands I absolutely hated, such as Vertical Horizon and Sister Hazel. By and large, though, Sweezey creates his own sound, as on the excellent "Saying Something," which showcases his ever-growing songwriting chops.

Out Searching is Sweezey's first album recorded in Vermont. To mark the occasion, he had fellow Vermont singer-songwriter Giovanina Bucci paint the cover. Check it out at ryansweezey.bandcamp.com, and catch Sweezey live on August 10 and 17 at the Tavern at the Essex Culinary Resort & Spa.