REVIEW: Bart Ryan – “Starlight and Tall Tales” is Old Fashioned High Octane


Bart Ryan – Starlight and Tall Tales

Despite the CD package art not truly representative of the bluesy, soulful music contained within this fine Bart Ryan (guitars/lap steel) collection, it deserves a spin, maybe more. The cover should’ve been the great image of Mr. Ryan on the inside front cover.

Ryan has the sand to open with 2 old-fashion soul turns with full-bodied brass on “Wanna Be,” (cool Steve Cropper type guitar tone) & “I’d Be a Fool,” (heavy bass & great backing singers).

It’s old-fashioned high octane. The LA-born/Nashville-based session guitarist & award-winning songwriter brings the 2-horn machinery of Stax-Muscle Shoals (Jeff Byrd & Steve Smartt).

Bart has a nice warm soulful voice similar to the Fabulous Thunderbirds’ Kim Wilson. But these may only attract listeners with recollections of the exciting soulful years of Eddie Floyd, & Wilson Pickett though Bart doesn’t have their power level — he does have sincere soulfulness.

On “Half Way,” Bart lets loose with his lyrics, guitar & voice to paint a vivid reminder of why soul music was potent at one time. This is a stellar track.

“Evil,” is a creative burner — standard angry in its blues approach. Bart sears with his bluesy vocals & wringing out a wet towel of guitar notes. No wimpy vocals or lame lyrics here. Again, Ryan whips out a fiery lead guitar that is inspired. This is a well-recorded atmospheric blues take. Even the spoken part is creepy & vibrant.

I don’t agree with Ryan’s political intent on this cut – but he wrote it in a clever manner that could be modified to apply to just about anything.

The 10-cut LP Starlight and Tall Tales (drops Sept 18 – Blackbird Record Label) was produced by Bart with Preston Tate White. Additional musicians: Jim Evans (drums), Matt Higgins & Ted Russell Kamp (bass guitars), Mark Kovaly (keys/bkg vocals), Aubrey Richmond (violin/bkg vocals), Michael Mishaw & Amber Gartner (bkg vocals).

Bart never loses any bluesy momentum even with the addition of violin to “Walk Away.” Recorded in Nashville at Starlight Studios – Bart’s basement – the 10 diversified cuts are enough to keep a listener’s attention. He keeps his songwriting above board most of the time & adds subtle guitar touches throughout. “Bring Out Your Joy,” runs its finger along the rim of the late Roy Buchanan’s style. Stinging guitar, sharp sax over a lumbering slow blues.

“The Healer,” is standard fare with lyrical cliches & early 70s stylizations – think Rare Earth & Bohannon. The closing tunes aren’t as strong as the earlier songs, but the performances are optimistically credible.

“Tonight, Tonight,” has a strong horn presence. “Desire,” is somewhat of a hodge-podge. It shows how it’s not easy to fill out & maintain an entire LP with creativity & originality consistently.

The 46-minute CD will be available @ Amazon & iTunes. Website:

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