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By: Sheryl Bryant
On a chilly Saturday night in the Friendly City by the Sea, the Seaside Arts Council hosted Tucson, Arizona’s Ryanhood for the final show of their Indoor Series. The concert was held in Swansboro’s Town Hall, which proved to be a most appropriate neighborly setting.
Ryanhood is Ryan Green and Cameron Hood. The duo got their start in Boston, MA as street performers at Boston’s Quincy Market. Both individuals play acoustic guitars and sing lead and harmony. Ryan also plays mandolin and Cameron the ukulele. Individually the two are talented musicians, collectively there is an unmistakable chemistry that connects them tightly and engages the audience.
Over two sets and 18 songs, Ryanhood made their way through 2 hours of insightful singer/songwriter tunes. The duo is almost like a 21st century version of Loggins and Messina meets Simon and Garfunkel, with James Taylor in tow. Ryanhood gave us a fine show, weaving creative stories and verses into song.
A fiery instrumental hoedown called “Appy Jam” opened the show. A poem looped with just two chords, E7 and D7 seamlessly turned into a delightful “Stopless”. A tale about a folk singing father looking back on his life breathed fresh air into “Sickbed Symphony.” Ryan’s love song, written on an overcast day and played with acoustic guitars, featuring Cameron on ukulele and Ryan on foot tambourine became “Summer Rain”. Stories coincided with song and Ryan explained that in Tucson, only about 10 days a year are gray. The remaining 355 are sunny. Undoubtedly, these two young men reflect that brightness.
From the first song off Ryanhood’s newest release called Yearbook, came the song “Alright Tonight”. This was a stirring song and Cameron’s voice was almost haunting on it. In this song his ukulele became a “ rockulele” as the two would describe it. The ole' uke did take a little beating! A clever song about getting over major life events entitled “I Didn’t Put Anything in Your Place” followed. The song expresses the need to not replace people or things lost in your life impulsively, but encourages one to work through the pain and loss patiently.
“Embers” is the title of another fine piece and also from the new album. It is about holding onto and appreciating the now. It delivers a “carpe diem” or seize the day sort of message. The last two songs of the first set also contained lyrical life lessons through melodic metaphors and followed a theme. "Lover’s Lament" was about not looking to the future or pulling strength from the past but focusing on the here and now.
The last song of the first set, “Welcome You Into My Head” allowed the audience to do just that! What worked best for Ryanhood is that none of the songs were lazy or tired. Electrified acoustics can bring the heat, and on many occasions some heavy, rapid string action commenced. When necessary, the band pulled back and softened for special effects.
After a 15 minute break where Ryan and Cameron mingled with the crowd as if they were old friends, the second set opened with the well played advice tune of “How to Let It Go”. The next song was written by Ryan Green when he was just 16 years old and, like the rest of us, clueless about his next move. It was called “Can I Kiss You”.
There were touches of the magic that Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel capture so flawlessly in the song “Start Somewhere”. “Always Love You” was reminiscent of a soulful James Taylor number. Its focus was on accepting that life will be beating up on you, but in its face, to heed the call of a larger voice, a voice called Love.
“Lifetime” was a song about facing adversities and mustering up courage for the ride. Ryan shared a poignant story about the luthier (named Beth) who crafted his custom guitar. She was a veterinarian who had a passion for guitars. She decided to build a shop behind her house and build her own guitars. She customized Ryan's weapon of preference and barely got to finish it due to a terminal illness. She had contracted cancer and sadly died just after its completion. Ryan dedicates “Lifetime” to Beth at each show.
With Ryan on mandolin and Cameron on ukulele, Ryanhood performed a stirring rendition of the Beatles’ 1966 song “And Your Bird Can Sing.” The tragic story of the Great Chicago Fire ensued. Cameron, a gifted storyteller in his own right, had us close our eyes as he gave a very graphic account of what it may have been like to be on the South Side of Chicago in 1871 during that ghastly event. He carried us through the city as we fled north in our minds, over the river and up to Lake Michigan. The song title was “Second City” and it, like that powerful fire, got pretty ferocious.
The partners went unplugged for the next couple of songs. They came out on the floor, one with his prized and precious custom acoustic, the other with his battered but beautiful Takamine, mixing it up with their complementary vocals. “Sad and Happiness” was a semi-anthem about their days of street performing in Boston. This song took on a playful, circus like feel. The song vamped into Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecelia” and turned into a sing along. For their encore, Ryanhood remained unplugged and aced “I’ve Just Seen A Face” one more by another phenomenal songwriting team of Paul McCartney and John Lennon.
It was fantastic to hear a singer/songwriter duo that writes and records their own songs as opposed to devoting all its energy to doing versions of someone else's body of work. It is so good to see two musicians from their generation (they are both 35) psyched about developing their own indie folk songs and gelling so tightly as a unit. Everyone who came to Town Hall on this night left with a smile and a sense of satisfaction. Clearly, Ryanhood has found its niche and we are luckier for it. Check them out at www.ryanhood.com
I’d like to thank Angie Cooper, Seaside Arts Council for her pass to cover the show. It was last minute and very thoughtful. I’d like to commend the Town of Swansboro for making it a point to include the Arts as an important part of their community. Let the Music keep our Spirits High!