After 5 long years, “FINALLY!.. Mike Ryan… has COME BACK” with a new album! (Hopefully you like ‘The Rock’ and get that reference). Mike Ryan released Longcut saying “I’m really proud of this record. I always felt that every project that I put out has been better than the last one.” If you have been living under a rock or stuck on terrestrial radio you may not understand how big of a deal this is. To catch you up to speed, Mike Ryan is one of the darlings of Texas/Red Dirt Country and has already reached its pinnacle with nine, yes NINE #1’s and over 265 million streams. If you read my last article on Mike Ryan, you know that I compared his success on the Texas country scene to one of my absolute favorites, Cody Johnson. As we have all seen in the last few years Cody has reached superstar status nationwide after a long run as THE MAN in Texas. Longcut has the potential to take Mike Ryan to new heights as well, with a stellar cast of writers, powerful vocals, and a gut-wrenching journey that fans across the country will be drawn to.
The album starts with the title track, “Longcut”, an absolute toe tapper that I could not predict after the album announcement. My only guess was some story about how he wouldn’t be caught dipping pouches, or ripping heaters – he prefers longcut. Although I couldn’t predict it, we can all relate to this song. We all know our hometowns like the back of our hands. We all have those special routes we take to get places quick while dodging traffic, red lights, and most importantly, the speed traps. If you are anything like me, you’re thinking about those shortcuts now… but that’s not what this song is about. See there’s a time and a place for that route and that’s when you’re on the way to pick up that woman you’re falling fast for. At the end of the night though, when you don’t want it to be over, then it’s time for the “Longcut”. When she’s riding shotgun, and you’re not about to cut it short, we’re gonna make 10 miles take an hour. It’s time to throw on the hazards, wait on a train, maybe even follow a tractor. “There’s a whole lot of ways around here to get held up, if that sounds good to you, baby you’re in luck, cuz I know a Longcut”.
“Die Runnin” might just be the tale after things flamed out with that girl riding shotgun. Maybe she moved away or life on the road tore them apart, but in the end, he still feels the same. If she’d just say the word, he’d “Die Runnin” back to her and you can hear him kicking up gravel on his way. “A couple thousand miles ain’t nothing, there’s no such thing as too far!” The fact of the matter is a girl like that can “Get Away With Anything”.
The story blends perfectly into this next track because no matter what she does, all he wants is her. I think we’ve all seen a friend in that boat, that no matter how many times they’ve been wronged, they always went running back. Letting someone “Get Away With Anything” rarely ends well though. In Mike’s case, she finally left for good and said she was never coming back. Hell would have to freeze over before she’d come knocking. Well there’s a knock at the door and would you look at that, it’s looks like the Devil’s got her “Jacket On”! We have all used the expression before but working it into this heavy fiddle and steel track and wrapping it up in a pun is just top-notch writing! (Kudos to all the writers).
The relationship probably turned sour when he called her the devil, but the album’s mood shifts with the next two tracks. “Loser” is just a phenomenal spin on how we’ve all lost at something, whether it was a fumble in the big game or all your money at the poker table. But you really don’t know what it feels like to be a loser until you LOSE HER. You don’t know heart break until it breaks for real and you’re “losing your mind, losing your head, can’t even get out of your bed” because you can’t win her back. Again, the twists in these lines are just so good. Please take the time to go look through these song credits because it’s an All-Star crew.
Sad Boy Country is having a real moment right now and the next track inserts Mike Ryan into the conversation, as well as transitioning into the next segment of the album. To keep it short and sweet, “You’re leaving is the reason, ‘All My Songs’ sound the same.” One of my favorites on the album falls in line because it’s time to #MakeCountryMusicSadAgain. Breakups aren’t always what we see in the movies. It doesn’t have to be a blow out fight, a screaming match, or in a rainstorm.
“She didn’t cry a single tear, she was just kind of out of here,
no spiteful words were spoken, low blows or dishes broken”.
“Sometimes it’s a UHAUL truck, foot down finger up,
cloud of dust ‘Born To Run’ playing on the radio.”
Sometimes that’s just the “Way It Goes” and boy did he paint the picture and you can feel his pain in those lines. It also really takes me back to a seemingly random breakup at a “Red Light” in the sunshine on a Sunday (Right, David Nail?).
For my beer drinking crowd, including the Mike Ryan fans who’ve been known to throw a few back, don’t worry. He’s still got that covered. I mean, this is a Raised Rowdy article after all, isn’t it? “Can Down” is an absolute standout track, hence the fact that it got its own release a year and a half ago. It kicks off with confusion of how some 5 foot 2, blue eyed girl, wrecked a guy like him and now…
“Here I am on a back porch, lookin like I’m stuck,
between a case of Rolling Rock and a heartache,
it’s gonna be the end of one of us.” …
“cuz if, it’s gonna be my heart or these double R’s
Crushed up on the ground… ‘Can Down’“
I mean you had me at caught between a Rolling Rock and a heartache, called them double R’s, crushed some cans, all while actually crying out for help essentially saying “Man Down”, A+! Those aren’t the only beers that get drank on the album, though. Our Raised Rowdy degenerates can still “get their drink on” — Missy Elliot? Drink Her “Off My Thinker” is just one of those lines that had to be written and I trust you can figure that one out all on your own.
“Gonna Take A Woman” is a real vibey track about all the things a woman can get a man to do, but also how she’s the only thing that can get him drinking like that. And then again, the only thing that can get him back off that barstool. “Like I Don’t” is another genre and mood bender that I feel could be the alternate ending to when that devil showed back up with her “Jacket On”. It’s really just a sappy love song, but I prefer to think more outside the box and this time he decided to make her his angel for the night.
I hate that it took until the end but I, like Mike Ryan, saved the best for last. “Forgiveness and Rain” sounds about as country as selling turnip greens from a flatbed truck if you ask me. They turned a classic country farming song into a story with an amazing twist. The tale starts with the dad telling his son that he feeds the nation’s habits and it weighs heavy on his heart. It really hit home though when the very tobacco he’d been growing cost him his own brother.
“If it aint me that plants them seeds, there’s someone else that will,
The way I justify it, they’re gonna buy it either way,
I don’t smoke it I just grow it, and I pray, for Forgiveness and Rain”
The Surgeon General put a real damper on the Tobacco Farm, though, and times were getting hard. It was time to “diversify or die” but other farms already had cotton, cattle, corn, and mead. He knew what had to be done even though it wasn’t right. It may not be legal but he had hungry mouths to feed. Although I do not partake in these extra-curricular activities, I know people who do and I know they will have a venue in a cloud of smoke scented like a skunk on this one if you catch my drift. The combination of story, the twist, and its overall sonic appeal put it near the top for me.
When asked about Longcut, he said: “We have been working for years on some of these songs and have lived with them for a while, and that’s one thing that is unique to this record. There’s also definitely been some sonic growth with this album.” Mike Ryan has proved himself and become a staple in the Texas country scene, not just to his devoted fans, but also to songwriters and peers. Longcut is extremely relatable, and with so many incredible writers, it really takes this album to a whole different level. I think this album has mass appeal top-to-bottom and could propel him to a much larger nationwide audience. I loved his last two albums, “Blink You’ll Miss It” and “Bad Reputation”, but it’s hard to argue this is his best work to date. Be sure to check out those albums as well as my previous article on the single “Die Runnin’” (here). Or just go listen to its counterpart on the album, “Won’t Slow Down”, if that’s more your speed! See what I did there? One more pun while also throwing in the only remaining song on the album. Boom! NAILED IT!!
1. Longcut (Brent Anderson, Mike Ryan, Smith Ahnquist)
2. Die Runnin’ (Barrett Baber, Korey Hunt, Dan Martin Alley)
3. Get Away With Anything (Sarah Allison Turner, Daniel Ross, Austin Jenckes, Joey Hyde)
4. Jacket On (Brandy Clark, Brent Anderson, Mike Ryan)
5. Loser (Colin Elmore, Hillary Lindsey, Gordie Sampson)
6. All My Songs (Jeb Gipson, Lynn Hutton, Mike Ryan)
7. Won’t Slow Down (Brandon Kinney, Josh Thompson)
8. Way It Goes (Brett Sheroky, Andrew Peebles, Phil Vasser)
9. Off My Thinker (Brandon Kenney, Josh Thompson, Ben Hayslip)
10. Can Down (Smith Ahnquist, Brent Anderson, Mike Ryan)
11. Gonna Take A Woman (Adam Hood, Pat McLaughlin)
12. Like I Don’t (Chris DuBois, Mike Ryan, Justin Wilson)
13. Forgiveness and Rain (Chris DuBois, Brent Anderson)