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Jimmy Ryan — Astral Café
(Ryanetics, 2021, CD )

by Peter Thelen, Published 2021-12-13

Astral Café Cover art

While I can’t say I’ve heard Chicago area guitarist Jimmy Ryan’s previous album (2017’s 21st Century Riffology), I am familiar with several of the albums that Jimmy recorded with his brother Johnny Ryan (also an outstanding guitarist / multi-instrumentalist) in their long running group The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers, active from 1996 through 2012 and releasing seven albums. Astral Café is Jimmy’s second album since the brothers parted ways to pursue their own musical directions. The style here is a powerful blues-influenced classic rock, riff-laden and driving hard, incorporating a number of influences like jazz-rock fusion and symphonic, often with beautiful dual-guitar leads ala Wishbone Ash in their glory days. The set is mostly instrumental, but there are a few vocal tunes here, among them a standout version of Robert Johnson’s classic “Crossroads.” That’s one of only three numbers not written by Ryan (plus one additional writing credit shared with drummer and co-producer Dan Van Schindel). Other than the drums, Ryan plays all of the instruments (all guitars, bass and vocals), with one exception, his brother Johnny Ryan joins him on guitar for the album’s closing track “Quiet Flight,” a piece dedicated to the life and legacy of Rush drummer Neil Peart. Right out of the gate, the album wastes no time getting into high gear with opener “Starlord,” a hard rocking instrumental tune where melody is king and great guitar tones play a close second. Surely Hendrix, Johnny Winter, and Leslie West are all smiling up in heaven when they hear this one. Other standouts include the Willie Dixon penned “I’m Ready,” Ryan delivering the vocal in his powerful gravelly voice, and the beautiful soaring guitar instrumental “Dulcinea.” Then there is “Plectrumelectrum,” a classic rock styled gem all the way through. Astral Café embraces a number of different styles throughout its thirteen cuts, underscoring many different elements of what great guitar rock has been and should forever be.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases

Related artist(s): Jimmy Ryan

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