Nonetheless, pre-war jazz drives the horn-and-piano-based arrangement of “Quickie,” and “Inspired by No One” is stone soul blues, with just a hint of ragtime. This from a guy whose initial guitar efforts were to cop licks from AC/DC and legendary Ozzy sidekick Randy Rhodes.
One Fine Color’s attention grabber, however, is the a cappella “Thick American Skin.” Unlike other the other numbers in Montbleau’s repertoire, it’s a protest song. Conjuring Dylan at a tent revival, he warns us about the decline of America’s spirit and values, riffing on the illogic of isolationism and the war in Iraq with “The fate of the world/Is knocking at the door/And we say this is private property/Don’t come around here no more.”
Montbleau wrote that song en route to the Gathering of the Vibes festival and busted it out on stage. “Even the band had never heard it before. It’s not that I want to be political, but I am honest, and this is what I was feeling, and I feel like I need to bring everything about myself to the stage, for better or worse.”
Elsewhere, the romantic in him comes through as he delves into love and nature. “Friends have been telling me that since high school, though I feel like some of the romance might be fading a bit. Playing 200 gigs a year and getting free drinks in a lot of places and not having a steady girlfriend in five years — which I understand, ’cause it’s a lot to ask of somebody when you’re on the road all the time — might be taking a toll and making me a little more cynical. At this point, I’m striving for a little stability. I’d like to get to a place where I don’t have to kill myself on the road so much, but the more I keep at it, the more people see the band, and I keep getting better at performing and writing songs, so I know now is not the time to slow down.”
Indeed, just before we spoke, Montbleau and his crew — brothers James P. and Jason Cohen on drums and keyboards, respectively, plus bassist Matt Gianarros and violist Laurence Scudder — had been talking about the new album they’ve already begun recording at Woodstock’s Applehead studio. “We’d like to put it out in the fall. We’d been playing the songs on One Fine Color for almost two years when we starting recording the album, so we were almost sick of them, and we want to keep these fresh.”
THE RYAN MONTBLEAU BAND | Rock & Blues Concert Cruise, Long Wharf, Boston | June 30: 6 + 10 pm | 866.468.7619