Bear Tales: the Legend of the Hill Country Delta Blues
A beam of sunlight in the crystal-clear sky pierces my eye as we drive past rural farmland and a John Deere outlet store northeast of Austin.
The modern sign welcoming you into Taylor is fitting for the massive growth the community has faced recently, as the housing market pushes city dwellers into nearby small towns.
Main Street appears on the horizon and we slide into an angled parking spot. Bear Ryan, hot off the release of her new single “Sugarfoot,” is hosting Sunday brunch at the Black Sparrow Music Parlor.
The Black Sparrow Music Parlor in Taylor, Texas. Photo by Andrew Blanton.
The solid-pine backdrop is fitting for the spiritual-like chant and bayou resonance from her cigar box guitar.
Ryan tells the crowd about her family history in the song “Irish Miners.” and grinds the metal slide on her ring finger against the fretboard.
“Take me back to the mountain,
I can hear them calling,” Ryan Sings. “They call him the king of the mountain.”
Ryan uses vivid imagery that lets the listener connect to the art. The instrumentation she creates can be hypnotic at times, and the repeating phrases leave you believing you are walking alongside characters in the story.
Bear Ryan performs at the Black Sparrow Music Parlor. Photo by Andrew Blanton.
We relax on an orange velvet couch from the 1970s beneath a classroom globe and stack of dated encyclopedias and sip Dublin Vintage Cola during the set break. Ryan chats with friends that came for lunch, and we browse albums in the record store behind the stage.
“With ‘Sugarfoot,’ I’ve settled into my sound,” Ryan said. “The song is a heavy nod to my musical influences, the Mississippi Delta, and its droning rhythms, and my heroes RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough.”
Ryan tells the story from the female perspective, which has been historically underrepresented in the genre. https://www.bearsongs.com/about
Hear “Sugarfoot” here: