We’ve been banging on about Texas singer/songwriter Ryan Hamilton since before RPM was even a thing, and for good reason. Ryan is an artist who always seems to be on the verge of breaking through with every new album, before some personal tragedy scuppers his plans and he’s back to square one.

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, well that all depends on what is trying to kill you, I guess. In Ryan’s case it could be a cheating first wife, addiction, divorce, online abuse, the record business, cancelled tours and most recently…a delayed album due to manufacturing errors. All the above have happened in the last decade and you really couldn’t make it up, but Ryan is still soldiering on, and thank your lucky stars he is.

‘Haunted By the Holy Ghost’ follows his 2020 break up album ‘Nowhere To Go But Everywhere’ and the following lockdown album ‘1221’. Produced by go-to-guy Dave Draper who also plays bass, along with Ben Marsden on guitar and Carol Hodge and Emily Ewing on backing vocals. It was recorded at Draper’s studio The Old Cider Press and Ryan’s home studio in Texas, making the whole album a transatlantic power pop affair.

The opening song ‘Asshole’ shows Ryan’s current attitude towards the music business. It was released on Valentine’s Day as an act of self-sabotage guaranteeing zero radio airplay, which is maybe a silly idea if you are a struggling artist wanting airplay, but I’m sure he knows what he’s doing…. but its ok, because this album is choc-a-bloc with singles!

The title track is classic Ryan power pop, a radio-friendly earworm inspired by his Catholic upbringing. With an infectious hook and a euphoric feel, it is an early highlight. ‘Paper Planes’ again, is the sort of song Ryan first showed promise with on ‘Hell Of A Day’, full of quirky, power pop goodness and a euphoric middle section that takes it up a notch.

Ryan is never shy to pen an 80’s style power ballad or two, and for this album he has outdone himself. There are two ‘lighter in the air’ moments that could end up on future teen lovers’ mixtapes. The first ‘Overdose’ is not about drug addiction, but about falling madly and deeply, like ‘first love’ deep or ‘marriage material’ deep. You know, right? We’ve all been there. Elsewhere the emotive ‘Absence Of Love’, lyrically is the complete opposite to the aforementioned ‘Overdose, while full of heartbreak and yearning, it is still as emotive though.

A cover of Splender’s ‘Yeah, Whatever’ is given a lick of aural magic by Ryan and Dave Draper. Indie beats and those quirky vocals give the turn of the century alternative hit a new lease of life, as they do with George Strait’s ‘All My Exes Live In Texas’. This fun run through was a past single but shows its face here as a hidden track (it’s a homage to the CD era, kids!) after the closing song of the album.

‘Sad Bastard Song’ officially closes the 12-track album, and it is the best song here for several reasons. For one, I just love the countrified acoustics and pedal steel guitar vibes, and secondly the tongue-in-cheek lyrics may on the surface make it seem like a throwaway, comedic song for losers, but the stark reality is that these lyrics are from the heart and probably ring truer than you would think, and it’s probably my favourite song on the goddamn record.

It’s a sad fact that some of my favourite artist from the last 30 years will never get the commercial success or the critical acclaim they so rightly deserve. Times are tougher than ever for the underdog, but only one thing can make a difference…you, the music buying public. It would be a tragedy for an album this good to slip under the radar when it should be up there with the Adele’s and the Tayor Swift’s of the world, but how can Ryan compete with those big guns? Who knows, but maybe if when you finish reading these words, you were to click a link and buy this album, that would help just a little. I mean, c’mon, it’s worth it just for that cover art of Jesus in shades, right?  

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Author: Ben Hughes