Double-lead-guitar-playing brothers Jimmy and Johnny Ryan have released six tasty albums of melodic instrumental rock under the Flyin' Ryan Brothers flag to little more than a cult following of fans. Why these guys aren't famous remains a mystery. Maybe it's because they're from Illinois, and not somewhere in Europe.
Regardless, Under the Influence delivers as advertised, with every track inspired by either a specific musical influence or an eclectic combination of several influences. Half the fun is guessing while listening to each song. For hints, Jimmy and Johnny cite several influences in the liner notes, including The Allman Brothers, Jeff Beck, Tommy Bolin, Boston, Crack the Sky, Bela Fleck, Happy the Man, Jimi Hendrix, King's X, Phil Keaggy, Joe Satriani, Think Lizzy, Uriah Heep and Wishbone Ash.
The album opens with "Ascension," essentially an 87-second guitar solo that slowly builds, a la Van Halen's "Eruption," before launching into the relentless "Full Throttle." "Miranda" highlights the brothers' clean, fluid playing, while "After Hours" allows them to more fully express themselves. The second half of this 13-track album is more enjoyable than the first, with greater diversity that finds the guys having some country fun ("Henhouse Shuffle"), indulging in some dance-floor funk ("Rubik's Groove") and reveling in dark Southern rock ("El Morado"). It's all punctuated with "Adore/Trinity," an introspective closing piece that is unlike anything else in the Flyin' Ryan catalog. It's also an indication of where the brothers could go next.
As has become tradition, the Flyin' Ryans are backed by versatile fretless bassist William Kopecky (Pär Lindh, Kopecky, Far Corner) and drummer Johnny Mrozek, who passed away in 2010. Mrozek's intricate beats help define Under the Influence, making it among the group's most adventurous albums. (Dan Van Schindel, who played drums in the original Ryan Brothers Band back in the Seventies, sat behind the kit for the rocker "Clockwork.")
I've given up hoping that one day the Flyin' Ryan Brothers will headline arenas; for now, I'm just hoping I can convince more fellow music lovers to give these guys a listen and buy up their back catalog.
2) Full Throttle
4) Grooveyard Dawg
6) After Hours
7) Loco Motive
8) Rubik's Groove
9) El Morado
10) Henhouse Shuffle
12) When We Left Earth