Ryan Montbleau at The Stone Church with Jason Scaggs

BRATTLEBORO — Ryan Montbleau has been an acclaimed singer, songwriter, and bandleader for more than a decade, but with his new album "I Was Just Leaving," the New England-based artist has truly arrived. Contemplative and richly emotive, the album offers a glimpse into the often-lonesome life of the relentlessly traveling troubadour, a strikingly single-minded existence too often clouded by the blur of constant motion. Recorded at New Orleans Esplanade Studios over four days in January 2016 with producer Anders Osborne and engineer/mixer Mark Howard (known for his work with such icons as Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Neil Young, and U2), the album marks Montbleaus first full length release in the wake of a series of seismic personal shifts. Songs like Bright Side and the touching title track reveal a uniquely blessed artist who has truly found his voice, his gift for melody and a remarkably open-armed approach.

Theres no part of this record that I am unsure of, Montbleau says. All the juice of the last fifteen years is in there. My humanity and my heart are on this record.

Montbleau has been among Americas finest songwriters and performers, earning national attention and a fervent fan following with songs like 75 and Sunny and his breakthrough cover of Tracy Chapmans Fast Car, the latter a Spotify smash with total streams now in excess of 14 million.

After12 years on the road Montbleau found himself at a crossroads in 2016. "Within a very short time, my world got flipped around. My partner was gone, my band of ten years was gone, my friends were all far away. The one thing I had was a career, because it turns out that was all I had worked on. When the dust settled, I realized I didnt really have much of a home life."

"I thought all along that I had been building a home but it turned out I was just leaving. Thats where the title of the song and the record came from. So many raw feelings were just aching through me at that point. Eventually they vibrated out through the guitar, through singing. I had to sing these songs."

An artist's artist, Montbleau has collaborated with such diverse performers as Martin Sexton, Trombone Shorty, and Galactic. His association with Anders Osborne extends back to 2012 when the New Orleans-based singer/songwriter/guitarist played on Ryans Ben Ellman-produced FOR HIGHER alongside such fellow Big Easy icons as Ivan Neville and The Meters George Porter, Jr. Two years later, Anders and Ryan reconnected on the road backstage at a festival. The seeds were planted for a collaboration.

Montbleaus guitar playing and vocals are both front and center on "I Was Just Leaving," with Osborne accompanying on drums, percussion, bass, guitar, and harmonica, each used simply and sparsely for maximum effect. Osborne and Howard built upon that same goal, creating space and capturing rawness by utilizing as many early takes as possible.

"Bright Side," the albums first single, is perhaps the song most emblematic of Montbleaus growth as both a human being and artist. At once finely etched and strikingly direct, Bright Side is an ideal distillation of his approach to songwriting, balancing multiple shades of emotional nuance with a fearless, unfettered sentimentality that ultimately leads to a greater truth.

"I Was Just Leaving," marks a singular milestone for Ryan Montbleau, the moment in which this exceptional singer, songwriter, and performer has blossomed into a fully matured artist.

"I've been planting these seeds for so long and it has all led up to this moment. It feels like finally the fruits of all my efforts are coming out. I'm still working hard but there's an ease to what's happening. I have a career that Ive built, that I've earned. Now whats fun is putting out the best music I can and seeing what happens."

Jason Scaggs is a man with many instruments and many musical influences. If you listen closely you can hear his Appalachian boyhood in Roanoke, Virginia, some raucous Boulder, Colorado flavor and a swirl of Vermont inspiration for good measure. Taking pride in his thoughtful lyrics and unique melodies, Jason's songs are mesmerizing, drawing you into his vision. His songwriting ranges from Folk to Bluegrass to Alt Rock. Smooth transitions from banjo, to guitar, to baritone guitar make for an exciting ride and when coupled with his smooth vocals, his performance will leave you wanting to hear more.

Scaggs is probably most well known for his work in the regionally touring band Jatoba (jatobamusic.net). There he was 1/3 of a foot-stomping, rowdy and dizzying non-traditional bluegrass trio. He is currently focusing on his duo "The Big Empty" (https://www.facebook.com/bigemptymusic/) with Jeff Richardson, also formerly of Jatoba. Jason is also the driving force behind a new musical movement based in Brattleboro called 5 Mics (https://www.facebook.com/FiveMicsVT/). A listening room style event taking place every 4-5 weeks through fall,winter & spring, five musicians take the stage and in a round robin format play selected songs to the audiences rapt attention. The musicians change each time and the project is gaining a following locally thanks to the palpable rawness and vulnerability seldom shared between artist and audience.

The two will be at The Stone Church on Feb. 10, at 8 p.m. $15 advance at stonechurchvt.com, $18 at the door, 210 Main STt.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions