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Ryan Montbleau made a bold decision while creating his newest album, For Higher — he decided to record the entire thing without his band. He wanted something different, and different is definitely what he got. With the help of George Porter, Ivan Neville, Anders Osborne, and Simon Lott, Montbleau was able to compose an album that was a magnificent mix between the usual, folk, bluesy sound of the Ryan Montbleau Band, and a new, funky, jazz-like sound. The end result was more uplifting, more beat oriented, and more interesting than anything Ryan Montbleau has created to date.
The album consists of four covers (“Heartbreak Road”, “Here But I’m Gone”, “Yeah Man”, and “Nice and High”) and six originals (“Burning and Hiding” was co-written by Eric Krasno). Each of the songs is defined by the instrumentals, with Porter Jr. on the bass, Neville on the keyboard, Osborne on the guitar and Lott on the drums. Montbleau says that he knew of these four before they actually got the chance to meet each other, and that playing with them was an incredible experience. The album was recorded in New Orleans in two days, and Montbleau says that the process went amazingly. The four other musicians picked up the music quickly and were all able to add something of their own musical talents to each of the songs.
The album starts off with the cover of Eddie Hinton’s “Yeah Man”, which seems to me to be the perfect introduction. The song is upbeat, with a deep bass carrying throughout. The chorus, shouts of “Yeah Man!” really gives the song a light feel. This is followed by another cover, one of Bill Wither’s “Heartbreak Road”. Here the beat is slowed, but the funky guitar rifts remain. The next song is slower, still, and then is followed by “Head Above Water”, an original song that Montbleau says is about how everyone seems to be barely keeping their ‘head above the water’, and contains lines like “I just want to get out of here alive!”
My personal favorite tracks are “Here But I’m Gone”, a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s song, and “Just Perfect”, a song about an ex-girlfriend that Montbleau’s been performing for a while now but just never recorded. “Just Perfect” is one of the songs where you can really hear the usual Ryan Montbleau in it– though still funky, it’s slower with a slightly more prominent folk feel to it.
Overall, the album is fun and interesting, and definitely one that I was glad I checked out. Montbleau’s idea to play outside of his normal band was a great one, and definitely paid off.