One of the clearest moonlit winter nights in our valley provided the setting that welcomed us into Ryan McAllister’s house concert at Serenity Performing Arts Centre. Ryan played on the evening of our first official snow day, arriving to mountains, trees and rivers covered with a blanket of snow and ice. There is nothing better than being led by a full moon to a stoked wood stove in a cozy farm house serving hot mulled wine to hear the voice, stories, and soul sharing of Ryan McAllister.
The entertainment provided by Ryan was second to none. He made us feel like the luckiest group of people in the world to be given the gift of his talent in such an intimate setting. For an artist as seasoned as Ryan, performing comes as naturally as breathing. His accessibility was immediate, and only became stronger and more meaningful as the night went on. In a rare appearance, Ryan brought along his older brother Dan, a poet and singer songwriter in his own right. Dan’s presence provided the perfect partnership and camaraderie that brought the performance together in a complete experience for the audience.
When you put two brothers together on stage, you can bet the result is going to be quite something. Ryan and Dan gave us a true gift, a glimpse into their connection as brothers, their childhood growing up in a household of 8 boys, and their current lives and relationships, including life as a 30-something musician.
Ryan’s songwriting style is an homage to the true storyteller. His writing reflects not only his life experience, but his inspirations and interests. And can he ever make you laugh. The ease in which he joked around with his brother, but also with us as an audience, was thrilling to be a part of. With a dose of true Canadian self depricating humour, a dash of black comedy, and a healthy amount of sarcasm, there were few moments when you weren’t laughing at what was enfolding in front of you. On the other hand, Ryan has a vulnerability that is incredibly moving. He showed raw emotion with us as he described certain influences for his songs, including everything from his own mother’s life story, to that of a young AIDS inflicted mother he met on a charity trip to Africa. He truly captured our hearts.
As far as performance goes, the night was extremely casual. Ryan was making his set list as the night went on, routinely catching Dan completely off guard. Ryan set the tone for the evening to feel like you were spending time with a close personal friend, not a guy who was signed to Madonna’s record label as the lead singer of a band that toured the world.
Nowadays, Ryan is father to 4 children who he raises with his beloved wife on an acreage in Abbotsford where he owns a private recording studio and works with up and coming independent artists. Although he feels blessed to have found a “day job” that keeps him connected to his passion, it is obvious that his true gift and heart is in writing and performing his own material. Showcasing his songs from his debut solo album, “Music For A Rainy Town,” the night’s true standouts included, “Mystery White Boy,” a biopic song about Jeff Buckley, whose music Ryan discovered many years ago only to learn of Jeff’s tragic death and wrote the song the very next day; “By Your Side,” a love letter to his wife who he spoke beautifully about throughout the night, putting pressure on all the husbands in the room; and a personal favourite, “This Black Heart,” a solid track from his album that stands up to any song in the pop rock genre on radio today.
As for our cherished venue in as rural a location as you can get, Ryan so kindly expressed that it continues to be one of his favourite places to perform in the world, and is one of the rarest venues he has ever experienced. We are already counting down the days until he returns to play here again in September.
Ryan McAllister performed at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on November 16, 2013.
He will be releasing a new Christmas album this winter, and expect to hear about an album release from North Country Gentlemen, the band he has formed with some of the top talents he has produced for, who have also become some of his closest friends.
Purchase Ryan’s debut album “Music For A Rainy Town” and debut Christmas album “Whiteout Christmas” on iTunes.
Visit his website http://www.ryanmcallister.com for links to free downloads, bio information & more.