Review Summary: It is very hard these days to come up with something good and stand out in the Americana genre, and Hutchens does.
Last Ten Years. Ryan Hutchens had his own reasons for coming up with such a title for this album, one of which is probably the fact that as somebody who was born in South Carolina, he decided to move to Denver, Colorado. Another might be the fact that Hutchens operates in the broadly named musical genre of Americana. But that is where the album name gets a bit of a symbolic touch.
Ten years ago it was probably the moment when the field of American was starting to get overcrowded with artists, with quite a number of them coming up with some brilliant music - M. Ward, Iron & Wine, Okkervil River, the list goes on. It is now a crowded field of artists, particularly singer/songwriters that took cues from everybody like Kris Kristofferson and Townes Van Zandt to more publicly appealing names like James Taylor.
The fact that you haven’t heard of Hutchens before might not be that Last Ten Years might not be only that this is the second album under his own name, even though he played more than 900 concerts in last five years, but also that he previously operated under the alias of Cancellieri, under which he came up with no more or less than six albums. So, all this begs a question - is he that bad"
Actually, completely to the contrary. On the evidence of Last Ten Years, it could be said that it is a bit strange that he didn’t get some of that Americana limelight shining on him. He has great vocal capabilities which could be compared to those of Will Sheff of Okkervil River, and his acoustic guitar picking is exactly what is required for this type of music. Still, it is his songwriting skills that come out as a big winner here, whether it is the balladry of the title song or the more country leanings of “The Landing”. The arrangements also perfectly complement the songs, being neither too sparse to limit themselves solely to the voice/guitar mode nor by being overburdened instrumentation that could make these songs sound like they are covered by heavy blankets in the summer. Throughout the album, it is evident that has a wide scope of the Americana genre (and probably a large collection to boot), but here he is not attempting to hold strict to any inspiration of his, but mold all that musical knowledge into something of his own.
For us who have not had a chance to hear Hutchens in his Cancellieri mode, he re-works a few songs from the six albums hi came up with under the alias (Education, Fortunate Peace, and Fake Flowers And The Weather). Whatever they sounded in their previous guise, Hutchens has certainly made them compatible with what he is doing now.
Of course, it is anybody’s guess whether Last Ten Years will be able to make an impact on Americana fans (or wider), but those with ears that fancy such a sound should certainly take a listen, Hutchens more than deserves it.