Album Reviews

Ryan Culwell – Flatlands

Artist:     Ryan Culwell

Album:     Flatlands

Label:     Lightning Rod

Release Date:     03/03/2015

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While some artists tend to adopt a false veneer manifested in hard luck stories and a generally dour disposition, Ryan Culwell needn’t adapt any pretense when it comes to either attitude or approach. Hailing from the tiny town of Perryton, Texas, Culwell’s songs are born from firsthand experience and a life of hardship in the west Texas heartland. Consequently, there’s an authenticity at play on Culwell’s third album that gives every indication that it will provide some sort of breakthrough. Having Neilson Hubbard at the helm as both producer and player ensures the appropriate ambiance–an overcast, sometimes stormy ambiance that is evident in both the title and tone of certain songs–“Never Gonna Cry,” “Darkness,” Piss Down,” and “Won’t Come Home” in particular. Nevertheless Culwell’s resilience and determination makes a formidable impression, and if Flatlands sometimes seems overly circumspect it’s a fascinating digression regardless. For all he bemoans–the stark “Satisfied” describes in bitter detail a young man’s jail cell suicide–Culwell boasts a certain swagger and attitude that serves him well in the midst of his adversity. Flatlands might have better been entitled Badlands, but either way it remains a testament to one man’s acumen and resolve.

-Lee Zimmerman

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