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Everything That I’m Not
Independent Release (10.14.2008)
Many a serious music lover
who was around during the early and middle portion of the 1990s will recall
the heated feud between the East Coast and West Coast-based hip hop contingents
that drug on for the better portion of that decade. While it’s certainly
doubtful whether such a heated rivalry ever existed among those in the
acoustic guitar-toting community, pop performer Ryan Calhoun has certainly
visited both sides of the proverbial equation in his quest for artistic
expression. Originally from Southern California, Calhoun relocated to New
York City to try his hand at the music scene there before eventually packing
his bags and returning home to the LA area. Stints at the Hotel Café
– often referred to as ground zero for the Hollywood singer/songwriter
scene – led to Calhoun’s teaming with producer Greg Laswell to record his
debut album, What Are We Doing Here?, a well-received effort which
helped earn the native Californian a Los Angeles Music Award for the best
new male artist of 2007.
Following in the footsteps of everyone from Lifehouse and the Gin Blossoms to Matchbox 20, Calhoun opens his sophomore outing with “Sometimes Sorry Is the Wrong Thing to Say,” a shimmering, adult alternative pop/rock gem sure to bring a smile to the faces of older Gen-X’ers and younger Baby Boomers alike. The follow-on tracks, “Slipping Away” and “Everything,” are every bit as bracing; thanks to their lively guitar work, towering melody lines and superbly tight harmonies. Adding fuel to the fire of his imposing pop credentials, Calhoun spins just as convincing a web around his slower material. “Undone” draws the listener in with its lulling, almost nursery rhyme-like, rhythm and melody. And the pleasantly understated “Right About Now” (Right about now I’m dying/ Right about now, I’m trying/ Right about now is not soon enough) is carried along ably by Calhoun’s clever use of lyrical parallelism.
Listening to “Now”
and “What I Want,” (I've got nothing left/ I've given my best/ And I know
I can't do this), one might be tempted to write off Calhoun as either self-absorbed
or defeatist. Making such a cut-and-dried categorization, though, sells
his estimable insight and breadth unfairly short. “Undone” (Now I see/
So much more than me), for example, finds the talented Californian deliberately
looking beyond himself for answers to his interpersonal turmoil. Likewise,
“Who We Are” (I keep looking up/ So I can hold on), rather than being down-hearted
or fatalistic, is perhaps most correctly labeled as cautiously hopeful.
And the undergirding temperament of entries such as “Draining” – where
Calhoun pluckily tells a romantic interest to “move on” – and “Sometimes
Sorry Is the Wrong Thing To Say” – in which he steadfastly refuses to accept
the blame for a failed relationship – is anything but acquiescent.