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Review from January 8, 2008

The Mike Ryan Band

Minnesota Music Café St. Paul MN.

As a Chicago native, I am fortunate to have a lively music scene at my doorstep.  When visiting the Twin Cities area recently I made a point to visit the Minnesota Music Café on St. Paul’s east side.

The club features local & national performers and has earned a reputation as being a premier music venue.  A few steps inside and one can see the displays of music that put the Twin Cities on the map decades before Prince.  Spider John Koerner, Bob Dylan, and Willie Murphy were all early contributors to the “singer-songwriter” style of music that seems as native to the area as cold weather.

This evening the café featured the Mike Ryan Band, whose energy rocked the sparse crowd.  The songs spoke of the human condition but had the defiance of no-frills rock and roll.  Backed by a crack band consisting of Dan Parsons on guitar, Bruce Thompson on bass & vocals, brother John Ryan on drums and vocals, Dennis Landeen on tenor sax, Mike Ryan on lead vocals and guitar performed original songs and the covers they chose to do were stamped with a mark of originality.

After a short intermission, Mike Ryan returned to the stage alone, with an acoustic guitar and a neck-rack held harmonica.  He gave a riveting performance, showcasing his talent for songwriting that goes straight to the heart.  On “I’m The One You’re Looking For” he has written what may be the perfect song of lost love, wistful without anger or malice but with the determination that one must soldier on.  A cover of the Stones “Let’s Spend the Night Together” sounded like an eerie plea and not just a flippant suggestion.  Joined on stage by bassist Bruce Thompson, Mike gradually added to the sound.  Next he was joined by Dennis Landeen playing some of the tunes plaintive and melancholy but on others playing wailing sax not heard since John Coltrane.  Dan Parsons showed restraint as he added tasteful licks without being too busy, a hazard for some young guitarists.  John Ryan is a veteran drummer-vocalist who is at the top of his game and gives weight to the assertion that as we age, we improve without us noticing it in ourselves.

I had planned only a half-hour stay but the band kept me glued to my chair, plus a very Minnesota-nice audience and staff made me feel welcome.  The Mike Ryan Band is scheduled to play Wednesday evenings from approx. 8:00 till midnight.  If originality and quality is your musical taste, you owe it to yourself to see them live.  Mike is so confident that, if you buy his latest CD (10 bucks! A great value nowadays) and don’t like it he will refund your money.  (No burning folks).

This venue and The Mike Ryan Band is what re-enforces my belief that the music is alive and well in America and that the best songsmiths and bands are still playing in clubs and bars all across this land.  These are true artists.  I am fortunate to bear witness to this.

Keep the faith,
Rob King