“And I don’t get anxious about my pancreas. To be honest, I’m not even sure what that thing does. I’m just so grateful that it’s in me.” Working at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) this line immediately stuck out. I was streaming Ryan Montbleau’s new record but was distracted making a cup of tea. Hearing my non-profit’s namesake as the kettle began to spit and shout, I realized I had to dive further into “Ankles,” or my work would never forgive me. The song seemed silly from the first lines, “I am thankful for my ankle. And I never think about them, but they balance me wherever I go. Unless I’m sitting down and then I think about them even less you know.” Once I started to pay attention, I recognized the profoundness of its meaning. The tune is also addicting. I absolutely adore Montbleau’ calming vocals and the earthy tones of the instrument arrangements that all mix together perfectly to create the bedrock of folk music.
“Wood, Fire, Water, and Air” is Montbleau’s new multi-part album. “As the songs took shape, it became clear to Montbleau that there were discrete themes at work within the larger collection, both sonically and emotionally. Rather than release the entire 15-track record all at once, he decided he would unveil the album more deliberately over the course of four separate EPs, each inspired by an element of the natural world.” There are only three songs on the “Wood” release. Since I was already in the middle of “Ankles” I stayed with it and put the tune on continuous replay. It instantly reminds me of Mama Cass’ “Make Your Own Kind Of Music,” especially its chorus. The two songs even have similar meanings reflecting on how to live life. I was also drawn in to how Montebleau’s voice is a wonderful mixture of Cat Stevens’ in “Father and Son,” Van Morrison’s many classic hits, a touch of Bob Dylan as well as Chris Stapleton. Jumping around, I next listened to “Perfect.” I want a guy to find me perfect with all my imperfections and goodness there are plenty. Frankly, I’m a bit of a shit show. (On the positive side, I’m not boring.) Montebleau lovingly declares, “I think you’re perfect. And I know you’re not perfect. And that’s what’s perfect about you.” The words are so sweet but what’s even more endearing is the song’s protagonist is a mess too. “Oh, I’m a sight to see. And I got to work on my core. And I sort of dribble when I pee. And apparently, I snore. But I’m perfect. And I know I’m not perfect. And that’s what’s perfect about me.” He admits it wasn’t always apparent, but with the aid of therapy came to an epiphany. “If things don’t have to be perfect, it’s a lot easier for them to be right.” We all deserve someone who embraces these beautifully, accurate mentalities. (I have a big crush on Montbleau. It’s too bad he’s coupled up.) The last track “Outside Looking In” is another heavy reflection on how to live. The other two tracks are cheekier where the last is a tad more serious, except for the chorus. “Danger, danger, call the fire ranger...”
The elements are truly a wonderful way to showcase Montbleau’s immense talent. So far, “Wood” hits the mark with polished, well-made, authentic tracks that are solid, rich, heavy, grounded, and completely natural. I can’t wait for the rest of the “Fire, Water and Air” releases. It feels much like the anticipation, yearning for the start of a new season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” or “Stranger Things” especially when the next installment, “Fire” promises to consist of tunes with blazing fervor. Let the fireworks begin!