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MUTUAL REVIEWING SOCIETY

jed gottlieb of the boston herald asked me to review my favorite song from my friend ryan montbleau. the original review ran here.

Is there such a thing as the “humble strut?”

I believe there is. And it originates with Ryan Montbleau.

He’s made a career of confident, danceable positivity, aural perambulations that say “Listen to me, not because I’m the greatest, but because music is the greatest.”

His latest single, “Pacing Like Prince,” is classic Montbleau. Like the best singer-songwriters, his lyrics invite you into his experience, his worries, his wanderings, but the music demands that you both not dwell too long in his insecurities. What’d be the use of that when you can walk it off?

and then ryan returned the favor. his original review ran here.

That riff.  I’ll never forget. I was parking the van in front of my old apartment in Cambridge the first time I heard this track. It came on the radio and I had a very strong one of those stay-in-the-car-until-it’s-over moments. Had to hear it. There was real soul here. And a coolness because it doesn’t try too hard. She just lays it down.

In my mind at the time, Erin McKeown was an American artist who had hit on some kind of big success overseas–the U.K.  And here she was singing this adaptation of an old English nursery rhyme over a blues riff and a great rhythm section. You can hear the room. You can hear the amp and the human beings in the room. That riff!  I remember thinking, “Man, her guitar player is great, props to her for finding him…”

Yeah right, so as it turns out that “guy playing guitar” is Erin. I have since seen her many times in all her glory, standing confidently and somehow like a giant at under five feet, wearing a boys’ powder blue tuxedo, hair curving and curling its way to the sky like a candle flame. And she digs into this Gretch hollowbody with fire. She owns it.

W.B. Yeats once wrote in a letter: “…The abstract is not life and everywhere draws out its contradictions. You can refute Hegel but not the Saint or the song of sixpence.”  The Song of Sixpence is what Erin draws on here and Yeats is right that there’s something about a nursery rhyme that cannot be refuted. Read the lyrics to “Blackbirds.”  There is mystery but also an absolute assurance in its delivery. It’s rooted in the old and yet it’s modern. And the track itself reminds me why I love The Black Keys’ debut “The Big Come Up” (which would come out two years later.) It thumps. You can march to this.