Distinctive and authentic, Glenn keeps things fresh while proving age is no barrier when it comes to maintaining a traditional sound.
North Texas native Ryan Glenn may only be 19 years old, but that doesn’t mean he’s short on things to say in his music; but then being the son of working musicians and having influences like Johnny Cash and Eddie Cochran, that really isn’t surprising. For someone so young, he’s managed to attract some impressive collaborators on his debut album too: revered relative newcomer Joshua Ray Walker adds lead guitar and harmony vocals on the opening track, while Jaret Reddick of noughties breakthrough pop-punk band Bowling for Soup provides backing vocals on track number three. But an album is about more than guest spots, with the quality of the songs being what can make or break an artist who is still finding their feet, so it’s a relief to say that the said quality here is welcomingly high from the rockabilly get-go.
“Piper / It’s like my whole world’s breakin’ in two / And I’m so blue / Something about you seems surreal / Why do you give in to his pity spiel,” warbles Glenn on the opening track ‘Piper’ as the 1950s Buddy Holly sound comes through with an uncanny strength – not to mention an irrepressibly toe-tapping beat. ‘Good Morning Rose’ takes the energy down a level, although what starts as a ballad does get some extra bite come the chorus: “Hey little Rose / Won’t you come back to me / Hey little Rose / Don’t you know it’s you that I need / I’d give you all my life just for one more night I think you know / That I love you Rose,” Glenn pleads.
The pop-punk sensibilities of backing vocal contributor Reddick come through clearly on ‘Love You All Night Long’, albeit with a rockabilly twist. “I wanna love you little baby / Love you all night long,” implores Glenn with a howl of a vocal. ‘Psychobilly Sunday’ is the most narrative-driven track on the album (although the tale of the unfortunate consequences of race car driving in ‘Fortune and Fame’ comes a close second), telling a story of generational trauma and how that inevitably manifests itself (“I always told myself I’d never be like him / Never cheat, never drink, never give in / But like the apple and the tree, daddy I fell as far as you / Livin’ lies and drunkin’ nights what else can I do”), while ‘Tired of Hurtin’’ is a sad tale of someone weighed down with pain and consequently taking their own life.
‘Pennsylvania Bound’ is upbeat and the most accessible track on the album, the peppy beat making it feel very much on the pop side of the spectrum, even if the story of Glenn visiting the object of his desire takes a slightly sour turn in the end (“All these months I’ve wasted hoping so maybe you’d come home, all my foolish pride / I wasted my only chance to get to call you mine / Now you’re Pennsylvania bound, to another guy”). ‘She’s My Baby’ jives along merrily, dripping with classic rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia, while ‘Beauty Queen’ is decidedly gentler and more reflective, speaking of life passing the titular woman by (“Beauty queen will go home all alone / Beauty queen will cry on her own / Little miss beauty queen dreams, of holding her saving knight / When she awakes she’ll realize, she held no one through the night”).
What starts as a sweet acoustic love song in ‘All of Me’ (“All of me / Come on, take all of me / Can’t you see / I’m no good without you / Take my lips / I want to lose them / Take my arms / I’ll never use them”), quickly turns into something more frantic and lively, transforming the tone into something entirely more anarchistic, which is in a way the perfect way to end an album that flows so easily between moods.
Although youthful, Glenn proves to be wise beyond his years, taking his influences from great musicians decades-long since gone, something that’s sadly rare these days; we can only hope he continues to let the sound of those from the past who inspired him propel him forward, so he can pass it on to a new generation with a fresh set of ears – who might just discover that there’s a lot to be learned from the past.