What’s there to do when you are stuck in Texas with just a guitar and your faithful dog for company? Well, when Covid scuppered the touring plans of singer/songwriter Ryan Hamilton last year, he came up with a new project. Not just to keep him occupied, but probably to help restore his sanity.

The plan: Record and release a song as a single on the 12th day of every month, culminating with the release of an album at the end of the year. A tall order for any artist you might think, but Ryan stepped up to the challenge and delivered.

Fast forward 12 months and ‘1221’ is finally a physical product in the shops and in the greedy mitts of fans and friends alike. With the help of his go-to producer guy Dave Draper, Ryan has crafted a 12-song collection of originals, covers and songs gifted to him.

The album is sequenced as the singles were released, so therefore opens with the first song we heard way back in January, his take on the Spin Doctors’ ‘How Could You Want Him (When You Could Have Me)’. The ringing piano notes, the regimental drums and dreamy vocals create the mood that fits perfectly with Ryan’s themes of soul searching and heartbreak, following the recent marriage break-up that inspired last year’s ‘Nowhere To Go But Everywhere’ opus.

While this album opener sees our man in a maudlin mood, the following ‘Deja Vu (I Love You)’ hits the other end of the spectrum. Cue power chords, bombastic beats and a signature, power pop hook to sing from the rooftops. This rocker is a love letter to… well, to being in love, no more, no less.

The rockers are strong on this album. The likes of ‘Shots Fired’ and ‘Do The Damage’ recall millennial, radio-friendly alternative rock, and the inclusion of a killer cover of 90’s Brit Rockers Catherine Wheel, seemingly seals the deal. In fact, there’s a late 90’s feel to the whole album. Big choruses, lyrics full of sentiment, layered vocals and a top-notch production all help.

The introspective ‘Caught Up In A Moment’ sees Ryan questioning relationships and asking the question “If you could change the past…. would you?”. It’s a heartfelt ditty, with piano accompaniment and a cast of familiar voices to back him up from across the pond.

With powerful lyrics and a sentiment about the child in all of us ‘Babies’ is an album highlight. Written for Ryan by fellow Texan songwriter Bob Schneider, it is one of those songs that grabs you from first listen. Sublime and thought provoking. Ryan matches Bob’s offering with another album highlight, the uplifting Permanent Holiday’. Pure escapism from these times in whatever way you choose. With an anthemic hook, it feels like a call to arms, a release if you will, to pick yourself up from the doldrums, put the pedal to the metal and hit the black tar rivers to better climes. A flavoursome, Brit Pop inspired ditty for sure.

While Ryan can certainly pen a catchy chorus or two, he also knows how to pick a good cover tune. The Refreshments ‘Banditos’ is a masterstroke of power pop, and I dare you to come away from this album and not be singing the “everybody knows the world is full of stupid people” refrain.

Elsewhere, ‘If Life Was A Movie’ is a feelgood earworm of 90’s indie rock that could be a They Might Be Giants b side if I didn’t know any better. Quirky, memorable and damn good fun. And he closes the album with a song for the broken-hearted, as he suggests and warms to the idea of moving on with his life as he bares his soul on the fragile and wonderful ‘Ready To Love Again’.

You couldn’t make up the shit that Ryan Hamilton has gone through in his career, ‘Nowhere To Go But Everywhere’ should’ve been the album to catapult Ryan into the big league, but Covid put pay to that. Even the documentary they were making about the crazy story of his previous band Smile Smile has been shelved due to recent events. This dude just can’t catch a break!

With no touring to promote albums, artists such as Ryan Hamilton stand no hope against the big hitters in the music world. Ryan has successfully completed a project he set out to undertake 12 months ago and maybe, just maybe ‘1221’ will see this underrated songwriter finally get the break he deserves. He certainly has the songs and the charisma, and his albums are consistently good. But don’t take my word for it, go buy the damn thing and see for yourself!

Buy Here

Author: Ben Hughes