Drivin’! is pianist/composer Kathleen Ryan’s fifth solo piano album, and this one will come as a bit of a surprise to those who are familiar with her earlier recordings. A few of the twelve tracks are the mellow piano sounds that make up much of Ryan’s previously recorded material, but on Drivin’! she also really cuts loose and demonstrates her bluesier, high energy side. The combination makes for a rather eclectic blend, but it’s great fun and very exhilarating! I applaud any artist’s attempts to blur the divisions between one musical form and another, and Ryan has done an exceptional job of that on this album. All but two of the pieces are original compositions, and she certainly makes “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Summertime” her own as well. Complete liner notes with the stories behind the pieces and samples of the music are available on Ryan’s website, kathleenryan.com
Drivin’! begins with “Complete With Angels,” an elegant ballad that portrays “how life and music are given to us.” Very flowing and calming, it gives no hint of the surprises to come! Ryan claims that the title track was written by her first car, a little red Toyota that thought it was a sports car. It begins with a “drivin’” rhythm and big attitude that mellows in the middle, very gradually building energy while exploring a variety of themes. “Meanwhile on Foot” is dark and funky with a walking tempo and parallel seventh chords throughout - a favorite. “It’s Liquid, Though” is Ryan’s homage to George Gershwin. Very slow and languid - almost dreamy - I think Mr. Gershwin would be very pleased. “Blue Paradise” returns to a bluesy funk that I find addictive. “Lazy K” is an easy-going charmer that doubles as a portrait of Ryan’s favorite cowboy. The effortless-sounding rhythm belies the complexity of the chords and of this terrific piece itself! Ryan’s arrangement of Robert Johnson’s blues classic, “Sweet Home Chicago,” is a classic itself. If you can keep your feet still through this one, something is seriously amiss! “The Donkey Drag (Mr Darcy’s Lament)” is a musical portrait of Ryan’s donkey, who doesn’t like going for walks on a lead rope. Colorful and full of fun, this piece should elicit smiles as you envision the donkey’s antics. Ryan’s exceptional arrangement of Gershwin’s “Summertime” is pitch black and sultry. “The Golden Passage” ends the album with a beautiful tribute to “Energy - Movement - Friendship - Music!” Graceful and evocative, it’s the perfect ending to this unusual and very exciting album!
I love piano blues, and if you share that love, Drivin’! is a must have! It is available from www.kathleenryan.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!