As genres become diluted with over-association, blended and blurred lines, and more offshoots than anyone can keep track of, those who opt to go their own way and let the music do the talking are finding surprising success. State-spanning guitar slinger Ryan Curtis is no exception.

Poised to release his newest album, Ain’t Ever Easy, Curtis kicks the dust of hesitation off his boots and continues down his road of musical exploration. The nine-track record offers equal amounts surprise and unshakable hooks. Whether the old wooden floor, hip-shaking blues bar swagger of opener “Can’t Take Back” or the classic rock styling of “Drunk Tank,” Curtis’ latest, like his highwayman sound, avoids being pinned down to a single boxed sound. Ain’t Ever Easy leans into the guitar-forward sound Ryan Curtis was destined for and has finally achieved in his own sound at a noteworthy level. The guitar work in “Good Corn Liquor” is a prime example and will have you coming back again and again. At times the release strikes a classic country style (“Cactus and Cocaine”) at others, an almost Waits-ian delivery (“Through the Trees”) draws us into the poetic stylings. Ryan Curtis’ latest release is distilled in a proprietary blend that can only be Ryan Curtis.  If Rust Belt Broken Heart was the journey, in a rusted out old pickup with miles of open highway running under the tires, Ain’t Ever Easy is the destination.

Ryan Curtis clearly demonstrates you don’t need to be in Nashville, hell, you don’t even need to be in the South, to deliver a great southern guitar-driven record. To that end, I hesitate to categorize Ain’t Ever Easy as Country. The record tends to strut on that old wooden fence of Southern Rock with nods to honkytonk, but it carries a grit rarely found these days in the Country genre, even when leaning full-blown Country. Ryan Curtis is more Country than Country in this latest release. Find out for yourself when Ain’t Ever Easy is released July 14th on American Standard Time Records.