Ryan Shepherd is a singer-songwriter from San Luis Obispo, CA., who has an 8 track album out called “Theme and Variations”. For those listeners whose roots go back to an earlier era of singer-songwriters it’s worth noting that this album is up there with classics in its intent, though it has more alternative pop feel. These songs are haunting, disturbing, and beautiful. There is nothing better than listening to an album by a gifted artist who obviously loves what he is doing. You can hear that in every beautiful melody on this effort.
“Theme and Variations” is awash in pleasant singer-songwriter pop that stands up nicely to return visits. Compared to the current state of pop/rock, Shepherd is a fresh breath of sincerity and casual sarcasm. The singer speaks to a boundless audience, as he thrives on examining those things that needle and surprise us from within.
Even in what may sound like fictional narratives, you can sense very real experiences whispering from the shadows. Beneath his versatile and observant Randy Newman-type lyrical flourishes and the pop sheen of his songs, Ryan Shepherd’s attitude ranges from heartfelt to smirking to unforgiving.
Shepherd radiates potential. He soars often enough to make you feel he has something clever and thought-provoking under his belt. Sometimes he’s content to just write a simple melodic song, but he’s usually turning a sharp satirical eye on something deserving. More often than not, his songs aspire to something deeper than just surface foolishness.
But his greatest strength lies in his ability to tell stories with details that resonate. Songs like “Waiting For Monday”, “In The Rain”, “The Charm Of The Sea” and “Inflatable Army” work not only because they get at something real to all of us, but also because they’re extremely well-told in the process.
Free of pop diva histrionics and Top 40 saccharine it’s the sensitivity hiding behind the lyrics that’s the real story in these songs. Much of what happens to Ryan Shepherd’s characters happens to most of us, at some time or another. He has a knack for fleshing out his characters crisply and concisely.
There are few artists capable of pulling that off these days. Musically Shepherd blends keyboard dominated tracks with guitar-injected ones, and sometime we can find both instruments unconsciously battling for the crown on the same song, as can be heard on “Call It Insomnia”.
All-round this is a unique collection of songs that are as observant as they are emotional. The combination of Ryan Shepherd’s voice and rippling images of honest vulnerability that transpires through the tracks absolutely captivated me. “Theme and Variations” floods you with intensity, and infuses you with melodic tunes and heartfelt lyrics, with just a pinch of melancholy.