Artist: Ryan States
Produced by: Drooling Class Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Born in Chicago, Ryan States, the youngest of eleven children, group up in a house filled with music. Every family member played an instrument. His older brothers formed States Music and performed as mobile deejays during the 1970s and 80s. By age 15, Ryan was working as a deejay himself and on Thursdays, he would spin music at Chicago’s classic rock station WHFH, 88.1FM.
Three years into a music degree at the University of North Texas, Ryan States ran off to join the circus…literally. He now performs for 60,000 to 120,000 circus fans each week, playing keyboards for the Ringling Bros. circus band. But he’s not just a circus band performer - States has performed in musicals, on jazz tours, designed sound for theatrical productions and created original music for television commercials.
Strange Town is Ryan States’ debut album. The sound is a mix of pop, rock and blues. In fact, if you ask me, Ryan States sounds a great deal like the Counting Crows with those soulful vocals that express a great deal of emotion. The songs found on Strange Town tell Ryan States’ story. They speak of things and events that have effected him emotionally and spiritually throughout his life.
I Will Find My Way is the hopeful and spiritually uplifting song that turned me on to this singer in the first place. Just hearing the lyrics and the vocals on this track inspired me to listen to the rest of the album. Immigrant (Fish Out of Water) discusses States’ love for New York City and his longing to return to a place that he felt such a kinship to. There are allusions in this song and a couple of others to States’ sexuality, something that is rare in the world of mainstream music. These songs - Immigrant, Better (When You’re Older), I’ll Give You (What You Want) - express that States is comfortable with who he is, an inspiration for those who have yet to come out about their own sexuality.
Although Ryan States alludes to his music as 80’s pop/rock, I find that much of the music of Strange Town would still fit in today’s world. The only song I feel is somewhat passé, despite the lyrical message, is How Do You Know (You’re In Love). The music, especially the sounds of the piano, is old-school, taking me back…way back. I’m not sure the listeners of mainstream music today could appreciate this sort of sound.
All-in-all, I found Strange Town to be an interesting and enjoyable experience. Favorite songs include I Will Find My Way, Immigrant (Fish Out of Water) and Never Forget (9/11/02), a song written a year after the September 11 attacks. The singing is a bit off, but the lyrics are very poignant and perfectly expresses the feelings of all who were affected by the attacks on New York City that fateful day. With a little vocal polishing, I think Ryan States can go a long way in the music industry. I look forward to hearing more from this talented musician and, with his vastly diverse life experiences gleaned from a life on the road with the circus, I’m fairly certain he will have plenty more stories to relate through his music.