2014 / Ryan Stewart Music
Review by Michael Debbage
Ryan Stewart’s highly impressive debut Equanimity was released over six years ago only to be followed up by the equally impressive In the Dreaming Hour two years later. Somehow managing to avoid the sophomore pitfall that appears to tangle so many artists and having to wait four years for his third album it was only a matter of time before the level of quality was going to taper off. Frankly that time is not now because One Journey is not only equally as impressive as Stewart’s prior material but actually it may be his best release to date.
Full of delicate yet obvious melodies that have a tinge of classical flavors One Journey is instantaneously pleasurable as Stewart open’s the album with “When We Met” that will draw you in and bait you with its immediate hooks. How memorable? Do you remember the day when you met your better half and to this very date you remember all the details and nuances? Then you will remember the color and shades of this song that most likely could be one of 2014’s best songs of the year.
While it is impossible for the remainder of the album to stand up to the quality of the opening track there are several compositions that come very close. Skip all away to the end and you will find the mid tempo but lively “Coming Home” filled with robust flowing strings and light percussion that may represent the steady strong heartbeat that one might expect being reunited with a loved one. In between these impressive bookends inhale the melancholy music of “Under The Willow” where Stewart’s piano work merges magically with the hauntingly beautiful ethereal voice of Aysia Stewart and the principal violin and cello strings of Monte Belknap and Nicole Pinnell respectively. Similar results can be found on the far from sketchy “The Portrait”. Less obvious is the stripped down piano introduction of “Old Friend” that is then later utterly complimented and supported by Pinnell’s embellishing but understated cello work. If an unplugged performance is the desire of your heart then the simplicity of “Innocence” or “One Step Closer may suit your fancy. Either route the results are most memorable.
Once again the production matches the performances and artwork equal to the task though the one complaint is that the release is packaged in a cardboard sleeve versus a case or digi-pack. That being the only complaint, on the back of the liner notes Ryan Stewart states that “”This album represents some of my more poignant life experiences found with my on-going journey. Make the best of your journey”. Needless to say, if this music is a reflection of the quiet joy in his life One Journey represents one heck of a scenic expedition in the life of Ryan Stewart. If your own life needs a little audio passageway then landscape it with this gorgeous musical journey that is clearly one of 2014’s most memorable recordings.
January 10, 2015