41f01W5oLDL._SCLZZZZZZZ_[1]I can’t tell you now where I’ve been now darlin’
There are hawks inside my head
And every smile and every good thing
Are picked at until they’re dead
I love you was all she said
That’s all she said

First he fills in the foreground. I imagine Matthew Ryan sitting in a dimly lit room with a guitar, or at the piano. He scribbles, in pencil, into his songwriting notebook, filling it with stories of the lost and brokenhearted, the dreamers and the damned. Then he picks out a melody that perfectly expresses the yearnings of his characters, who more often than not seem to be some part of himself. The song written, he opens his sonic palette to create a backdrop for his painting. A distorted guitar here, a driving electro-beat or ominous synth pad there. Foreground and backdrop blend into a seamless whole.

Dear Lover (Dear Future Collective) is Matthew Ryan’s 12th album, and his first to be self-recorded. Nine of the ten tracks were recorded at his home studio in Nashville. The album was inspired by events in the spring of this year. “In short, last winter I found myself in an emergency room with someone I love. It seemed too soon. I guess it always is. But it started my head spinning around these songs once everything turned out alright,” according to the artist. “It’s a collection dedicated to saying the things between lovers that often go unsaid,” he continues.

In 2006, struggling to come to grips with the death of a friend from cancer, and the imprisonment of his brother, Ryan released the very personal, intimate From A Late Night High Rise. He followed that effort up in 2008 with Matthew Ryan vs. The Silver State, inspired by his childhood on the outskirts of Philadelphia. If you’ve heard him, you know his work to be so emotional that he seems to struggle to bring sound to every syllable. His voice is a tortured dry rasp, brimming with intensity and filled with meaning. Listen as all these considerable skills come together on the album’s title track.

Matthew Ryan goes about his business quietly. Maybe too quietly for someone pursuing a career as a songwriter, but maybe that’s the way he wants it. Fans are not won by the thousand, but one by one in small clubs across the country, and hopefully on websites like this one. Once you become a fan, though, you’re a fan for life. He’s the underdog that you root for. You tell your friends when there’s a new album, or Matt’s coming to town. They become fans. And so it goes.

Matthew Ryan’s Dear Lover is available now digitally at iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody, Napster, and Amazon MP3. The CD will be in stores on February 16, 2010. You can stream the entire album at Blurt.

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About the Author

Ken Shane

Ken Shane lives in Narragansett, R.I. He is a freelance writer and far and away the oldest Popdose writer. In fact, he may be the oldest writer, period. He wants you to know that he generally does not share his colleagues' love for the music of the '80s, and he does not forgive them for loving it. (Ken passed away in November 2022. R.I.P. —Ed.)

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