Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Big Game Postponed

Ryan Humbert. Sometimes the Game Plays You.
Rock Ridge Music, 2012.  Ryan Humbert:

Maybe it’s just me. After listening repeatedly to Ryan Humbert’s fourth full-length album, “Sometimes the Game Plays You,”I wasn’t in love with the music. Or, even in like. Humbert, an Akron native, has spent years in the music scene, both locally and on the national level. He plays on a regular basis in the Northeast Ohio area, and has opened for major record label artists such as the Zac Brown Band, Elvis Costello, Train and Third-Eye Blind, to name a few. The guy works hard and obviously has attracted the interest and support of A-list artists, and has a loyal following in NE Ohio. Truthfully, based on this album alone, I am not sure what the fuss is about.

I’ll give Humbert props for being an excellent songwriter. The lyrics are compelling, drawing the listener into his world and taking us on an emotional journey with him throughout each track. However, Humbert’s vocals are overpowered by his backing band and have a thin sound rather than the rich, warm quality I would expect from such an experienced artist (and from someone who can write such emotive lyrics). The album was recorded not digitally, but on tape, and I wonder if the method and the production added to the flat sound.
I also give Humbert and his Canton-based band credit for the diversity of the album. From folk to pop to country, the songs show Humbert isn’t afraid to step out of the box and try something new. He shows a talent for arranging multiple instruments in his songs, and, again, I laud Humbert for his efforts.
I was disappointed in “Sometimes the Game Plays You.” Several times, I started to enjoy a song, to have it take an unexpected turn into mediocrity. The lyrics were good, but the quality of his voice distracted me from the words. Humbert’s different takes on American music intrigued me, but he seemed to be jumping from genre to genre rather than settling down into an arena he knew he owned. Listening to his LP I felt lost, and not in a positive way. I really wanted Humbert, a local darling, to take me to another world with his music, but not this one.
Some artists are radically better live than they are in recordings, unfortunately. Maybe this is the case with Humbert and I am missing out on a great show. I plan to see one, soon, and hopefully will see Humbert and his band in their glory. At least, I hope so. That said, I don’t think I would listen to “Sometimes the Game Plays You” again. Truthfully, after hearing it I felt a bit played, myself.

Tracks:  Waiting for the Lightning, Don’t Tell My Heart, Mayday, Home is Where Your Heart Bleeds, Everything, Telescope, Boulevard to Nowhere, Not to Me, Tattoo, Incognito, Fool Me Twice, Heartache Waiting, Sometimes the Game Plays You, I Will Find My Own Way, Boulevard to Nowhere (acoustic).

Jennie Narraway

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