Uta Hagen--

"We must overcome the notion that we must be regular...it robs you of the chance to be extraordinary and leads you to the mediocre."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ryan Simpson ~ Free of Shackles

So, I know that I kind of suck at keeping a blog, but I'll make up for it today.  Previously on this blog, I've mentioned the Scotty Bratcher Band.  Also, I have previously reviewed books on this blog.  Today I'm going to try something new: I'm going to review an album.  

Ryan Simpson is the drummer for the Scotty Bratcher Band, but (as I recently discovered) he
has his own album of songs he's written and preformed.  I purchased his album, FREE OF SHACKLES, this past Friday and listened to it in its entirety (a few times) on Saturday.  The music really struck me for a couple reasons.  1) The sound is a lot different than anything I had ever heard him play with the SBB. 2) The lyrics were really meaningful and deep. 3) He had recorded everything by himself, every instrument and all of the vocals on every track.  

I decided to review the album for a couple reasons, as well.  Obviously, Ryan's a super nice guy, but the main reason, I think, is to help spread the word about his solo music career.  Having been a fan of the SBB for well over a year, I couldn't believe that I didn't know he had his own album.  Because I'm a literary analysis freak, I'm going to go song by song and give my thoughts, so if you don't want to know my interpretations in order to better form your own, you don't have to read anything but the over-all impressions.  Also, you can listen and read the lyrics to all of the songs HERE.  

Side note: The opinions expressed here are just that - opinions.  They are my own take on the songs and music of Ryan Simpson's original songs from his album, Free of Shackles.

Over-All Impression of Album: As a writer myself, I really appreciated the fact that Ryan Simpson is unafraid to write what he truly feels.  It's not easy to put yourself out there in any respect, but to put your thoughts and feelings out there, it's a scary thing, but very admirable.  It's a very emotional album and the feelings of the songs definitely come through.  It's raw and somewhat heart-breaking in a way that can only be explained by listening to the songs.  He's a very talented person - as a drummer, definitely, but also as a writer/singer/guitarist/all-of-the-other-instruments-he-plays-on-the-album. The music is harder and darker than what I normally listen to, but I honestly enjoyed it.  If you had to compare him to someone (and that's a very hard thing to do), the closest I could get would be Nine Inch Nails.  But overall, BEST $10 I've spent in a long time! 

"When You Fall" is somewhat a revengeful song (I'm not sure that's the right word, but I can't think of the right one).  We all know the type of person that is described in this song, the person who gets really far in life but probably not by the right path.  We can't be happy for this person, maybe they betrayed us in the process of gaining their success.  This person is seemingly perfect and thinks him or herself to be invincible.  This song is about the inevitable fall of a person who believes him or herself to be above others.

"Jealous Hands"  in my opinion, is about a relationship that ended for one person before it did for the other.  It clearly shows the hurt of unrequited love and almost gives the feeling of being used by this other person.  But what I like most about this song, I think, is that it comes full circle and isn't just about grieving over a broken heart; we all have to get over heartbreak and this song shows that you have to kick people out of your life that have hurt you - even if they're already gone.  And I think that's something we can all relate to.  You can't give someone the satisfaction of ruining your life every day after they've already hurt you once.  You have to get back up and say, "I'm stronger than this.  You hurt me, but I'm going to find something/someone better."

"You Think You Know (But I Promise You Don't)" voiced doubts in religion, which we all have probably had at some point in our lives.  No one really knows the answers to the most important questions in life, especially when it comes to religion and what is "right" and what is "wrong."  To me, this song conveyed the struggle to put your faith in the unknown.  

"Apostasy" (defined as: a total desertion of or a departure from one's religion, principles, party, cause, etc.) Knowing the definition, and realizing Ryan has a very large vocabulary because I had to look up words, you could probably guess what this song is about.  First, I would like to say that it's an interesting song in terms of sound - I think there might be xylophones?  And that's always a plus.  There's an obvious lack of trust in this song stemming from needing someone, presumably God, who wasn't there.  I felt like the lyrics conveyed a sense of not being heard and feeling abandoned.  There was a feeling of disappointment and of self blame for letting yourself believe.  Definitely a song about seeking the truth.  This song is one of the best examples of Ryan Simpson not being afraid to put his true feelings out there.

"Cleaner" is a song about corrupt government and society.  The people who are in power will never stay in that position, and when we're gone, we are left to clean up their mess.  We have to fix other people's mistakes.  The song shows the government taking the power away from the people, but also the need for the people to retaliate and take the power back from the government.  A very relevant song to today's world.

"New Low" similar to "Jealous Hands," I felt this song was about an abrupt end to a relationship that one of the two people (the speaker) doesn't want to end.  I felt that the speaker in this song felt betrayed by his lover who felt as though there was nothing left in the relationship and thus leaves him with nothing - not even a goodbye, really.  He doesn't want to let go of the relationship and isn't able to because of the physical, unjustified and unrequited need for this person. 

"Viet Song" as a history buff, this song jumped out at me when I was reading through the song titles because of it's obvious relation to the Vietcong from the Vietnam War.  This song has a beautiful instrumental intro.  It's about unrequited love and growing up without realizing it.  Often enough, people act like everything's okay, even when it's not.  When conflicts are over, people tend to pretend they never happened and push them out of mind.  I related to this song because of the feeling of confusion and not being sure of what to do with your life.  But I love that this song gives the hope that one day everything will be okay; that one day, your life will be what it needs to be, you just have to push through until it gets there.  Maybe my favorite song on the album.  It's a little bit confusing, but when I asked Ryan about it, he told me he didn't want to tell me because he was afraid it'd ruin it for me.  But that's okay, I like the song anyway.

"Savior Poison" is by far the deepest song on the album, in my humble opinion.  It's a very satirical song about society and freedom.  We are free to do as we're told, but are not supposed to question things as they are, just accept them.  People do not think for themselves, but is that really freedom?  There's a line about the rules being made in the sky, which, to me, references that this country was founded on a Christian platform and the controversial topic of whether or not that's the correct way to do things.  The song definitely shows the absurdity of not being yourself but conforming to what society expects of you.  To me, the song had a gospel/rock sound to it, which added to the satire all the more.  No matter what your beliefs are, I urge you to listen to this song.

"The Sports Racers Vs. The Hard Chargers" is an all instrumental song.  I'm not going to lie, it brought out the air instrumentalist in me.  It's a very energetic and all-around fun song to listen to.  Would make a great song to pump you up in the morning or while you're exercising (if you're into that sort of thing).  

"Burning Skin" is also an all instrumental song.  It's a more peaceful song than "TSR Vs. THC."  It's a very beautiful song.  I'd be interested in finding out where the title came from.  There's a line about "Burning skin become my face" the last song on the album...Any connection?

"Free of Shackles" is probably tied with "Viet Song" for my favorite track.  It, to me, showed how an ending can be a new beginning.  It makes you search for a purpose and emphasizes that you can't let the bad overtake you.  Even though you might not be sure of the future, that's okay.  It's okay to wander around and try to find your path in life.  There's nothing holding you down anymore now that you're finally free.  I think that's what we all have wanted all along.  So endings are okay, as long as you move on and learn from them.  It's okay to be afraid, because you know that as you continue to move on, you're closer to the good than you are to the bad.  I think this song was the perfect song to end the album that is so full of hurt and uncertainty.  

So there you have it.  I would seriously urge you to purchase this album and show some support to Mr. Ryan Simpson.  If you don't feel like tracking him down at a SBB show, you're in luck!  You can also purchase a digital version of his album online where you can listen to the songs and read the lyrics!  All you have to do is click HERE!  And like I said, it's only $10! 

I'm definitely looking forward to the next album and cannot wait to see what the future holds for this very talented musician!