Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Songs of Zion

Ryan Shupe and The Rubberband
“Last Man Standing”

I was lucky enough to get a prerelease copy of this CD to review from Ryan’s Publicist. Unfortunately, I lagged so far behind in doing the review that it’s no longer “pre-“.

Oh, well

Previous to this, my only experiences with Shupe and Co was owning “Simplify” and seeing him live a couple of times. “Simplify” is still one of my favorites of all the Utah/LDS artists I know. Even though the band’s music is not LDS-specific, it does address life, and often from a clearly religious perspective.

In the meantime, they spent some time as a major label artist, touring and recording, and even had a video in rotation at the CMT channel.

I enjoyed listening to this one over and over as I drove to and from work. It’s a fun CD, that really holds up to repeated listenings. It’s really hard to categorize Ryan’s music. Years ago, at his website, he attempted to do it and I still remember the phrase: “Post Hee-Haw hip hop funkadelic newgrass” Honestly, that’s the best label that could possibly describe the music. It’s got bluegrass and country roots, but the branches include rock and rap, with folk in the leaves. It’s a crazy lookin’ tree. But the sound is great.

Even though I loved this CD, I have to admit I didn’t love it as much as “Simplify”. It’s fun, and quirky, and the production was impeccable. Perfect really. Actually, a little too polished. I think the desire to make it really accessible made some of the writing a little less original. Songs like “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” are fun and bouncy and memorable (I can hear the hook in my head as I type), but just not as lyrically cool as, say, “1000x”.

Still, there’s some really good stuff on “Standing”, like the title track. This one not only shows off the bands flawless musicianship, but the the dynamic blending of styles. Who knew you could rap over a banjo? “If You Could Live a Different” is a really cool exploration of what people go through in life, hidden from the rest of the world’s view.

Overall, a great job!

Mark Hansen

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