The best music comes from lessons learned. The yearning, aching love-lost aside, what brings an artist to that pivotal moment defines their sound. If they approach music with no life lessons to show for it, their music can come across lacking.
As Austin, Texas based Ryan White explains his previous endeavors were filled with “a whole lot of heart and too much idealism for our own good.” These experiences would take him to share the ticket with Flyleaf and Fair to Midland, but ultimately leave him flat on his back and broke. Thanks to the encouragement of renowned producer/engineer Brian Virtue (Jane’s Addiction, 30 Seconds to Mars, Army of Anyone) White picked himself up, dusted himself off and created Cry Wolf.
The acoustic rock ship upon which White pours his heart quickly becomes felt in every chord and moved by every lyric. The style that is present in Cry Wolf bleeds with life experiences and a profound amount of originality. It does not take 30 seconds to get to Mars, but it does take all of 30 seconds to realize the sheer power of Ryan White. If Jared Leto were to have a solo album, I imagine it would sound something like this.
The shimmering brilliance to the record is the anticipation. If you begin to think it is predicable, you’re given a curveball (see: “Yessir”). Sure, there are moments of raw low-key acoustic ambiance (“O Brother” and “Traveler”) but when he shreds the strings in the title track or explodes with passion in the massively impressive “Smoking Mirrors,” the latter prompting an out loud “holy hell” moment, or the chills you get from experiencing “Castles” it becomes very clear that Ryan White is much, much more than just a man and an acoustic guitar. Showing signs of the most seasoned artist, he knows how to tap into your emotions, not just your ears, and play with them like a stage performance. White takes acoustic, epic rock to a level I haven’t even seen attempted since Tantric and Days of the New; then he dishes it out with a hint of a vintage Weiland-like delivery.
Coming at the price most are afraid to pay, Cry Wolf is a testament to hard work and lessons learned. Ryan White’s voice echoes with passion that is as epic throughout the tracks as it is great to listen to. Without a hint of self-gratification or too much idealism, Mr. White, you have succeeded.
Last night, whilst scrolling through the newsfeed of a notable social networking site named after a position I would find myself asleep in when studying math problems, I found a cleverly written cartoon about how to live an unremarkably average life. It was full of steps like: don’t question authority, make safe choices, etc etc. You know what wasn’t on that list? Moving from Texas to Los Angeles, touring nationally, dusting yourself off after your record label folds, reinventing your sound and returning to Texas to set up a new home base in Austin.
While this might sound like a movie hybrid of Eddie and the Cruisers and Beautiful Girls, it is the story of Ryan White in his debut solo project, Cry Wolf. As much is evident in its autobiographical tone, and White’s collision with the Los Angeles scene is told through the thinner is better “5 Lbs.” and a need to get back to basics in “Back to Madison.”
The end result is a Kickstarter funded acoustic rock album that seesaws between late 80s power ballads and post-grunge power. Most of the album is a boy and his guitar, backed by bass, drums, and piano. Some of the west coast influence bleeds in with a string section in the titular “Cry Wolf” and “Yessir,” a sign that you can get the hell out of LA, but it will change you, for better or for worse.
I have never been a fan of high production value, especially the unnecessary cello in a song. I think overproduction is great if you want to hide the flaws of an artist. But with White, his strength is his raw power and too many instruments can distract from that. His percussive guitar strumming and punching vocals literally make the little hairs on my arms stand on end. The goosebump inducing factor comes from the emotional charge, not from the orchestra pit.
It is tempting to go all in when you have a producer like Brian Virtue putting your album together, and with Ryan White, they put out a hell of an album. From the near-a capella “Castles” to the rollicking “Smoking Mirrors,” there is enough acoustic rock goodness to go back to the well for more. Ryan White’s journey through Cry Wolf is a compelling one; it is a journey I hope we get to read more chapters from in the future.
Cry Wolf is available through iTunes or via physical copy on White’s website.