CD Review of Smoke & Licorice by Ryan Scott
Recommended if you like
Ray LaMontagne, Jeff Buckley,
John Mayer
Ryan Scott:
Smoke & Licorice

Reviewed by Jeff Giles


es, you read that RIYL correctly. On Smoke & Licorice, his sophomore release and Velour debut, Ryan Scott blends Ray LaMontagne’s world-weary folk/soul rasp, John Mayer’s raging boner for jazz-inflected licks, and Jeff Buckley’s ethereal intensity – toss in a dash of Elliott Smith’s knack for a sad melody, and a Mike Errico/Richard Julian New York City vibe, and you’re just about there. How is it that this album has managed to languish, bereft of hipster buzz, since last September?

No matter. You’re reading about it now, and even if you don’t count yourself among the hippest and most with-it on your musical block, don’t automatically assume Scott’s charms will be lost on you; wide swaths of Smoke & Licorice hearken back – way back – to ‘70s acts like John Martyn and Spirit. It’s obvious that Scott was aiming to create an album out of time, and he largely succeeded – even if none of these songs are likely to make you forget the best efforts from the artists mentioned in the above paragraph, neither are they apt to send you scrambling for the “next” button.

What Scott may lack in finger-snappin’ hooks, he more than makes up for with sheer vibe. The album’s title is wholly appropriate – his vocals, in particular, literally sound like smoke and licorice. He’s clearly still growing into himself as a songwriter – occasionally, as on the woozy, angular “I Think I Love You,” he seems more concerned with flexing his chops than playing to his strengths – but don’t be surprised if you find yourself drawn back into these songs repeatedly, wandering between the sad-eyed bucolic majesty of “Lullaby” and the spaced-out swagger of “Why I Cry” until they’ve burrowed completely under your skin.

The blogosphere is packed to the gills with music geeks who would gladly elbow their grandmothers in the neck to be able to call firsts on a talent like Ryan Scott – the fact that Smoke & Licorice has attracted so little attention since its release speaks to either spectacularly bad luck or a surplus of incompetence at his label. Hell, maybe it’s both. Don’t expect Scott’s music to remain a secret for very long, though – he’s too talented to ignore.

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.

Around the Web