The album opens with “Wanna Be,” a wonderful, soulful number, complete with horns, a song about reaching out to a person. “And when I reach for you/What I want to see/What I want to see/I want to see you reaching back, back for me.” There is a sweet vibe to the vocal delivery, and the song has a positive feel, as he sings “I think in just a little while, oh yeah, I think you’ll be mine.” It is interesting that he goes straight from that line to “I’m sure in a little while, oh, I’m sure you’ll be mine,” displaying a confidence that is optimistic and not overbearing. And it seems right when he says, “When are you going to see/You’re the only one for me/And don’t you know it’s true/I’m the only one for you.” That’s followed by “I’d Be A Fool,” which begins with a groovy, kind of funky bass line. This song takes a turn from the first track, showing a very different aspect of relationships and attraction. At the beginning, Bart Ryan sings, “Oh, oh, oh, I wish you’d just speak your mind/Oh, oh, oh, you know with you, it’s never clear.” And soon he says, “I’d be a fool to take you back again,” leading eventually to him admitting “I’m just a fool.” Things get pretty damn serious when he sings, “Oh, oh, oh, maybe I should just drink poison/Oh, oh, oh, or smoke a dozen packs a day,” surprising and effective lines. I suppose that would aid him in avoiding making that mistake, but holy moly, does he have to go to that extreme? I love the backing vocalists on this track, particularly when they sing, “Tell me why.” “Half Way” is also about a woman, a song carrying a warning, his vocal delivery betraying this is coming from a place of experience and weariness. “Did you hope you could save her/Did you hope you’re the first/Well, she may be in danger/But, brother, your trouble’s worse/When you think she’s smiling/All sweetness and light/But she’s just baring her teeth/Before she bites.” This track features some good backing vocals and some powerful guitar work.
Bart Ryan then gets seriously into the bluesy rock realm with “Evil.” “Yes, I say you’re evil/I say the devil knows your name/Yeah, he sleeps in your mouth/And he moves in your veins.” Well, we all know someone we could sing this song too. “What do you love?” Bart asks, and the backing vocals repeat “What do you love?” Bart then answers for the person, “You love nothing.” At that point in the song, we should all have the same person in mind. And if you don’t have a certain racist asshole in mind yet, well, Bart Ryan becomes more explicit: “You live in a white house, but you soul’s black as tar.” Indeed. I love this song. It offers the delicious promise that people will come for him in great numbers, drag him out and bury him. “And I will put my boots on/And I will walk on your grave.” Amen to that. I wish it were happening this very moment. “Evil” is followed by “Walk Away,” a song that has a dark kind of beauty, about advice that can’t be taken: “Walk away, they all say/But I still feel your head in my hands/While you’re sleeping/And I whisper in your ear/That promises are for keeping.” This track features some beautiful work by Aubrey Richmond. Then in “Bring Out Your Joy,” Bart Ryan sings “Bring out your joy/Whatever it may be/There’s more pain in this world/Than tears in the sea.” Yes, this is another song we can all relate to. “Bring out your love and let me touch/I promise I won’t take too much/I just need a little crutch.” This is another of the disc’s highlights, a song of heart, a song of pain, a song of everyone I know. There is some really nice, expressive work on guitar too. And then the sax comes in, because a song with this much ache absolutely must include some soulful wailing on sax, and it is perfect. “I envy you your hope/I envy you your faith.”
“The Healer” has a funky, rocking vibe from the start, sounding tough, like it’s going to speak of troubles, but its lyrics speak of someone with healing abilities. “There’s always someone left to heal.” The entire country could use a healing at this point, and it had better get it too. Yet the sound of this track seems to warn us to be careful, to take care, to not entirely trust her powers. “She’ll put you together, stitch by stitch/But you’ll never be the same.” That’s followed by “Nobody,” which opens with the sound effect of rain. I always prefer to do without such sound effects, but once that fades into the background and then disappears, this song becomes a good, soulful number, one that reaches out to remind us that “Nobody, I said nobody/Nobody walks this world all alone.” Then “Tonight Tonight” is more of a rocking number, even calling out, “Hey, you rock ‘n’ roller,” urging folks to play “Because pretty soon you’ll be pushing strollers.” Ah, but not tonight. Tonight is about fun, and the guitar and horns seem to confirm it. This one takes me back to some of the 1970s rock that I grew up on. The album then concludes with “Desire,” which has a fantastic raw sound and some great lyrics, another of the disc’s highlights. Check out these lines: “Yeah, you’ll get a reward if you’re good girls and boys/But it never works out, we’re always swindled somehow/If you run into God, tell him I want mine now.” But probably the best line, as I mentioned earlier, is “And I’ve had my heart broken by every dream I ever had.” But this line also stands out: “‘Cause the worst thing in this life is to have no dream at all.”
CD Track List
- Wanna Be
- I’d Be A Fool
- Half Way
- Walk Away
- Bring Out Your Joy
- The Healer
- Tonight Tonight
Starlight And Tall Tales is scheduled to be released on September 18, 2020.