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Bart Ryan Set to Release New All-Acoustic Album “Messenger” on March 24th

“Bart Ryan has a knack for baring his wounds, and with such smoldering instrumentation, the emotion simply wrings from his soul.” — American Songwriter

When Bart Ryan’s fifth full-length album, Starlight and Tall Tales (Blackbird Record Label), came out in 2020, it received stellar reviews by music critics in the U.S. and Europe. Not only did they take note of Ryan’s guitar and lap steel playing, but also his depth and breadth as a singer-songwriter. Blues Rock Review described Ryan as “an impressive guitarist and a strong singer, but Starlight and Tall Tales works because of his songwriting,” and American Blues Scene called the album “an ambitious work that moves confidently from soul-infused power to stark intimacy, unified by Ryan’s gritty vocals and soaring guitar and lap steel.”


Now Ryan is following it up with Messenger, his first all-acoustic album. From the infectiously feel-good “Street Corner Angel” to the political fable “The Ballad of the Lizard and the Frog,” Messenger features ten original songs, most freshly penned, but a few are drawn from the past and re-imagined, including “The Healer” and “Wanna Be” from Starlight and Tall Tales.


When asked about the title for the new record, Ryan says “every song on this record has a message – a message about love, fate, lust, anger, hope… maybe all of them at once. Sometimes a song feels very personal, it’s my message. Sometimes I feel like a conduit and the message is just passing through from somewhere else. Either way, I’m the messenger.”


“Starlight… never really got its moment,” Ryan says. “It had good reviews, but all the touring was canceled. That hurt. During the lockdowns, we were doing live streams every week or two. It was me, Jim Evans and Jeff LeGore, playing acoustic arrangements and drinking Sexton Irish whiskey. Eric Craig at Blackbird saw us and thought the acoustic vibe was cool, and I had always thought about doing an acoustic album.”

As a producer, Ryan has worked on music for movies like the Oscar-winner The Descendants, but steadily put out solo albums, usually presented in full amplified glory. But with Messenger, he took a different approach on multiple levels: “I would often get up in the (late) morning and go right down and start recording vocals—no warm-up,” he says. “I wanted the vocals to be more intimate, immediate, and scratchier. I thought it fit the character of the album better.”


Ryan’s considerable electric guitar skills lead him early on to share stages with masters like Coco Montoya at blues clubs in his native Los Angeles. Today, he writes, records, and produces out of his home in Nashville. Ryan jokingly says “the path to madness is to lock me in a recording studio with all my guitars and no set schedule.” In recording Messenger, he brought his Collings, a rebuilt Harmony from the 60’s “for a more pointed ‘Blues Box’ sound,” a high-strung Guild, and a Dobro resonator. Creating a completely acoustic album turned out to provide a good challenge: “With an acoustic, you have extremely sensitive mics picking up every tiny squeak.” He adds: “Arranging with only acoustics is also a different universe. Getting the different guitars to fill different roles and fill the song out is challenging, and a lot of it is also in the mixing, but it’s a real blast.”


With Starlight and Tall Tales out, and Messenger scheduled for release in March 24th 2023, Ryan is planning to tour. Messenger will be an independent release, and a European tour is being set up through JohTheMa PROMOTIONS for the spring of 2023. “Everyone has a hard-luck story from the last two years. But God willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be playing this music out in the world early next year.” Ryan says.