Welcome to the worldly wonder of Ryan Holweger's new album Gunmetal Sky. His sound is one that borders somewhere between alt, Americana and country. In my head I just came to calling alt-western. Holweger himself is quite fascinating. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand for most of the year. There's nothing particularly fascinating about living in Bangkok, other than I have never personally been. What fascinates me is that while spending so much time in southeast Asia, his musical pursuits still call him much closer to home, which would be Minneapolis, Minnesota in the U.S. of A.
Let's start with perhaps my favorite part of the album, the words. Holweger is an accomplished lyricist who takes the signature country style of writing songs and turns it on its head. The lyrics are direct and given time to linger but the meaning is a bit more metaphysical than your grandad's country song. His words are a bundle of well woven metaphors. His voice is interesting, it's certainly not conventional in an Americana or country sense. He's low-fi, not a belter. In fact I feel his voice is part of what gives the music such an alt edge. There were moments where it felt a little out of place in his attempts to style his performance more towards a traditional country performance. I like his voice best when it embraces itself as an alt sound.
Musically, this album is a lot of fun. It started with an acoustic intent and blossomed into something way, way more fantastic. Steel guitar, harmonium and trumpets are some of the many guest stars that give this album so much gravitas. I enjoyed almost all of the arrangements on this album. Even when he slows it down to a boot shuffle, there is something in there to give it a twist or edge.
There were a few songs that leaned a little too much toward the traditional route, but I understand why he would want them there. The steel guitar is definitely one of my favorite additives; he has incredible guitar skills that I think complement that type of instrument so perfectly. It's a stacking of little touches everywhere that made this album such a standout.
This album has tickled all my curious bones. This cutting edge bootgazer struck a chord with me on a few different levels, one of which was my Tarantino film fandom. Americana and country are not my first picks of genres, but I respect the hell out of this album. It's emotional, dramatic, vulnerable and very raw. No canned beans here, this is a farm to table kind of experience.
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