Ryan Davis & the Roadhouse Band sing Dancing on the Edge! 2xLP (Sophomore Lounge, 2023)
“This is the sound of someone bearing a torch.” - Bill Callahan
"At the frayed bottom-edge of Indiana – just a moderate bike ride north of LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY – multi-instrumentalist, artist and songwriter RYAN DAVIS’ Americana-noir soundwaves have been emanating for years in a myriad of forms. As driving force for the lauded STATE CHAMPION, long-running member of TROPICAL TRASH, administrator of the esoteric and excellent CROPPED OUT festival, and lone proprietor of the SOPHOMORE LOUNGE label, Davis lays down his first proper ‘solo’ release with ‘DANCING ON THE EDGE’ – a rich, 2-LP tapestry of tunes that absolutely glows over seven expansive cuts. It’s a pure collage of modernity and heritage.
Recorded in early 2023 with help both in-studio and remotely from peers like CATHERINE IRWIN (Freakwater), JOAN SHELLEY, WILL LAWRENCE (Felice Brothers, John Early), JENNY ROSE (Giving Up), and CHRISTOPHER MAY (Mail the Horse), Davis draws backup perhaps primarily from his tight-knit drinking buddies-cum-cast of collaborators in EQUIPMENT POINTED ANKH (records on Astral Editions, Bruit Direct Disques among others) – a five-headed hive-mind from which he drew impetus for his own foray into more abstract and improvisational terrain these past few years under the ROADHOUSE alias. The results herein are melancholic, gentle, minimal yet colorful in mood: a lilting highway accompaniment of crisp instrumentation and a relaxed, amiable approach to vocals with rhapsodic wordsmithery. Fans of the aforementioned artists as well as those of Souled American, David Berman, Kurt Vile and ‘Comes A Time’ era Neil should all easily find bounty.
While bare-boned and uncluttered in presentation, many of these pieces track over 6 minutes allowing a fair amount of expansiveness. “Flashes of Orange” percolates with synthetic and organic percussion while Davis ruminates on how “a steady drip falls from the ceiling to my forehead / a pitter-patter of my past mistakes” as a Cale-esque violin chatters through impressionistic fields of pedal steel. It’s got an absence of recurring verses, replaced by an ever-unfolding story, words spotlighted by tasteful flanging synths and lovely key shifts as finally the titular hook lifts its proceedings up into the clouds. Other times the humor shines: tales of a jukebox that “only plays ‘Sultans of Swing’” in “Junk Drawer Heart,” ruminations like “soon I’ll be seen as a problem for the neighbors / soon I’ll be seen as a trophy for the precinct” in “Free From the Guillotine,” and of course the simple proclamation of “A Suitable Exit” being “I never asked to be born / I was only wondering where the door went to.”
Tracked & mixed by SETH MANCHESTER at Machines With Magnets (Pawtucket, RI) and mastered for vinyl by TOHRU KOTETSU at Tokyo’s legendary JVC Mastering Center, ‘Dancing On the Edge’ stares down into the navel of the American Experience underbelly with a fair amount of outward reach. Besides the Kosmische-synth and violin stabs reaching into a European element, stately organ swells build a musical bridge between 1969 Southern California and Felt’s latter era smooth moves, with layers of intelligent gesture taking this well beyond the realm of its archetypal indie troubadour/acoustic songwriter tag. Music and mint juleps never went down so well together." - Brian Turner