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Published: 2011/07/01
by Bill Clifford

Ryan Montbleau Band, Rock & Blues Concert Cruise, Boston – 6/18

Photo by Melissa Tasca

In his latest post on his personal blog – a tour diary of sorts – Ryan Montbleau notes, everywhere in the country that he and his namesake band take the stage, there are people “…who know the words to the songs… sporting the t-shirts… who drove from two hours away to see the show.” He adds that he takes inspiration from seeing an Avett Brothers tour poster from roughly five years back, on a wall in a club the band is currently playing and how the Avett Brothers are now “playing on the Grammys, blowing up everywhere…” He reminisces about hearing a few years ago about “…how Dave Matthews didn’t “make it” until he was 34…” and how he thought it a good number too shoot for.

On Saturday, June 18th, Ryan Montbleau turned 34. He, and the Ryan Montbleau Band (RMB), celebrated with a hometown show aboard the Provincetown II, for a short tour around the Boston Harbor on the Rock & Blues (Bleaus) Concert Cruise. Fans who boarded early were treated to the sounds of The Jason Spooner Trio, and as we departed, Will Daly serenaded us with a mix of rocking electric and sultry acoustic rock at dusk. As the sky grew dark and we sailed on, the stars shined against the night sky, the city skyline romantically gleamed in the distance, and the Ryan Montbleau Band took the stage and were gleefully greeted by well over 900 fans, friends and family.

While in previous years the Rock & Blues Concert Cruise took place aboard a smaller vessel, this season’s inaugural cruise on the Provincetown II was an astounding success and near sell out, as we all packed ourselves up against one another, with hardly any room for dancing, on the small but open aired top deck in front of the band. Everyone, it seemed, was right there as the RMB opened with a distorted wall of noise that moved into the swinging tribute to Mother Earth, “Grain Of Sand.” A casual stroll around the bow and stern revealed more fans and still more on the lower decks in line for beverages or the rest rooms. Mid song, in tune and in time, Montbleau ad libbed the line, “I think we might have ourselves a good time after all, out here away from the land, here in this grain of sand.”

Later, amidst more dissonance, Montbleau jibbed, “I have only one rule when we play out on the boat; stay on the boat! This song is called ‘Head Above Water.’ Keep your head above water tonight.” It was the first of three newly written songs performed, which have recently been recorded in a New Orleans studio with a lineup of all star Louisiana musicians for an as of yet to be titled and released CD, that have a funk vibe.

Over the last year, the RMB has been in transition as violist and vocalist Laurence Scudder left, and guitarist Lyle Brewer stepped in. On a funky and fiery cover of B. B. Kings “Driving Wheel,” Brewer nearly set the boat ablaze with several bluesy, searing solos that meshed with churning, Hammond organ. His addition has brought the band a small dose of a harder rock sound, while also remaining delicate and tempered enough on the fills where Scudder once played.

Midway through the sun dappled, buoyant pop song “75 and Sunny,” Montbleau looked out over the horde in front of him and jovially noted, “I’ve always had this notion, I don’t know why, that by the time I was 34, I would hit the big time. I’m glad to see that I was right!”

The swanky jazz song “Maybe Today” moved seamlessly into the funky, instrumental “Hands,” and that just as smoothly segued without missing a beat into the slow, sensual groove of “Glad,” another new song that featured the lovely keyboard tones of Jason Cohen. The opening acoustic guitar notes of “Stretch” – his most popular song, written about reaching one’s own potential – immediately brought screeches from the women in the crowd and enticed us all to clap and blissfully sing along. Another older song, “The Boat Song” was slowed in tempo and featured delicate piano tones from Cohen, sounding like a late night piano bar/lounge tune.

“Dead Set” is another new song, a swampy, New Orleans styled funk ditty, with a slow peculating groove and melody, lead by Montbleau’s steady, cadent vocal delivery and featuring aching wailing solos from Brewer. The song is a fine example of how Montbleau’s writing has evolved to now include Brewer. Sufficiently juiced, the fans aboard the Provincetown II had loosened and were now bumping and swaying along to the groove of “Here At All’ as the craft pulled back into the pier. Fans serenaded Montbleau with “Happy Birthday” and then the band followed up with a rollicking three-song encore that found “Any Blues” being reworked as a funky vamp and segueing via a rolling electric bass solo courtesy of Matty Giannaros right through “Love Songs.”

With eight years of history, The Ryan Montbleau Band is hitting on all strides; touring nationally and drawing bigger crowds by word of mouth in every city they visit, earning income by writing, recording and releasing CDs on its own dime and merits. And the band’s sound has grown, matured and continues to explore deep pockets and funky grooves. It’s safe to say, as any of the band members and fans will, that the Ryan Montbleau Band has definitely made it.

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