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Mary Lydia Ryan


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Ethereal evocative/eclectic alternative pop, getting more beautiful and fierce all the time

Status:

Most recent release, Where Can I Leave My Heart (2015)

See also:

Mary Lydia Ryan's site

CD Baby's Mary Lydia Ryan site

Mary Lydia Ryan at ReverbNation

Comparisons:

Tori Amos, Emily Bezar. (Marion)

Lynn Canfield (of Area, The Moon Seven Times, Shotgun Wedding). (woj@smoe.org)

Covers/own material:

Own, occasional covers

General comments:

Mary Lydia Ryan sings and plays the piano, and so comparisons to Tori Amos come to mind. She's quite different though. While a song like "Bleeding" could have been a Tori song (Little Earthquakes era) most other songs are more mellow, more melancholic, introspective and wistful. Not depressing. Most songs have something uplifting in them as well. It's good music for a rainy day when you're comfortable inside by the open fire. Mary Lydia's piano playing is not as eloquent as Tori's but it's nice and flowing and very effective—I like it very much. I like the prominent role the piano has in most songs, sometimes it seems even more important than her singing. Her voice is high and clear, and very slightly lingering. (Marion)

she's a decent pianist and has a soft, warm voice which a little-more-than-vaguely reminds me of lynn canfield's (of area, the moon seven times, and shotgun wedding). her songs tend towards the moody and contemplative. they're fleshed out by a full band, but the piano subtly takes center-stage. (woj@smoe.org)

Just also wanted to add my voice to the endorsements for Mary Lydia Ryan's work—her work is lovely—her first album was not "catchy" per se, but nonetheless evocative and a delight to listen to. Her second is indeed catchy, and a real knockout—she can belt it out and whisper and write a song that snares your ears. Her artistry is growing by leaps and bounds. (Neile)

both of her albums are really really good...there are extremely cheesy moments here and there on the first album, but there are some moments that are absolutely heart-stopping, like "Tale of the Cherub" and "Farewell Ophelia"...but somehow this departure or growth or whatever it may be into jazz is incredible and just such a remarkable change between the first and second albums... and it's nat, there are a few surface similarities between Diaphanous and Jill Tracy's Diabolical Streak, though Mary Lydia is much more Chicago 1940s jazz while Jill is much more 1910s London parlour shmoove-ness...but the similarities are there, the certain cabaret descents, the jazzish tones occasionally giving way to crystalline and incredibly gorgeous piano lines. But anyhow...so yeah, I'm finally a big Mary Lydia devotee. So there. ;p (John.Drummond)

Very lush piano—not really Tori-like but if you like Tori you'd probably like her—she's from the Seattle area and has a good website where you can order albums. Her album Diaphanous is superb—her first album is quite good too. (jjhanson@att.net)

Comments about live performance:

The first time I heard her live was a few months before the Diaphanous release, and it was wonderful, confirming just how powerful and focused and distinctive she is, and moving her way up the scale of my favorite artists. I think hearing the new material and hearing just how great a pianist and vocalist she is, made me realize that her range (of vocals and material) is much broader than I'd thought. I was also lucky enough to attend her disc release concert for Diaphanous and it was revelatory. She is a talent to watch. (Neile)

The show was great! Mary and Tim are really nice people, and she really brought her songs to life. It's surprising how much seeing her play piano added to my enjoyment of her songs. She's a very expressive player. I felt like her songs were fully realized just on piano, and was really impressed with how completely she was able to reproduce them. I thought they sounded just like the recordings, until I went back and listened to them and realized these versions sounded nothing like the recordings.
     One of the highlights of the show for me was "Devil With Wings". I loved the syncopated funeral feeling that she produced. That was probably musically the simplest accompaniment of the evening, but it seemed really effective and evocative. I also really enjoyed the piano interludes, which were quite lovely.
     Mary played songs from both of her albums, as well as a couple of new songs. (8/00, neal)

Recommended first album:

Diaphanous

Recordings:


Mary Lydia Ryan

Release info:

1996—Reality Records—MLR001

Availability:

Mail order and U.S. stores that carry indie release

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Mary Lydia Ryan—vocals, piano

Guest artists:

Rick Bowen—drums
Perry Ryals—bass
John Schussler—violin & percussion
Clair Aixk—flute
Chisopher—backing vocals
Don Young—guitar

Produced by:

Timothy W. Killian

Comments:

The cd opens with the outstanding track "Farewell Ophelia" (based on Shakespeare's words). Beautiful, melancholic, misty piano music, with some very effective strings added, and Mary Lydia's complementary voice. This song would make the album worthwhile on its own even if the other songs weren't as good as they are. The piano plays an important role on the album, some songs are almost half instrumentals, and the sound of the piano is recorded wonderfully. The style of the songs is quite diverse, but Mary Lydia's flowing piano playing and her voice keep all songs together and make this a nice consistent album. Sometimes the music goes a bit in the jazzy easy listening direction (as in the bossa nova "Thinking of you"), other songs are more upbeat ("The Kiss", "Bleeding"), and in "Tale of the Cherub" there are vague glimpses of the experimental music of Emily Bezar. I like the sparse arrangements, the addition of strings or a flute or drums in the right places works really well. Also the male vocals in "The Kiss", especially the spoken words there, add drama to the song. I'm not too fond of the same male backing vocals in "I know" though, where I find them distracting and too much in the foreground. But that's the only real flaw I can find in this lovely album. (Marion)

This is nice. I truly like "Farewell Ophelia"! (mbitter(at)juno.com)

The first thing that struck me about Mary Lydia Ryan was her voice. I wouldn't say she sounds like anybody in particular, but she did sometimes, for very brief moments, remind me of Tori Amos, Jewel, and Natalie Merchant. She has the kind of voice that takes me to a very beautiful place, and once I'm there, helps me explore the feelings she is sharing in her songs, if that make any sense.
     The music is provided mainly by her piano playing, which is a very effective accompaniment for her voice. The opening track, "Farewell Ophelia", had some particularly moving piano work.
     I must admit that, initially, I found the CD a bit musically repetitive. But as I listened to it more and more, I became more aware of the differences than the similarities.
     The lyrics, written mostly by Mary Lydia Ryan herself, were sometimes simple, but not simplistic. I found the lyrics very touching—they appear to tell stories about experiences that are very real to the artist.
     A quote on the CD sleeve says "You will gain more from emotional surrender to your music than through technical expertise" In my opinion, she has no shortage of either. I would recommend her music to anyone who is looking for a "quieter" ecto artist. She certainly has a new fan in me and I will definitely be ordering her next CD. (csaris@upe.ac.za)

It's quite good. Along the lines of Emily Bezar, but much tamer, less experimental. Good stuff. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Diaphanous

Release info:

1999—MLR Music—6-37271-9902-5

Availability:

Mail order; see website for details

Ecto priority:

Highly, highly recommended

Group members:

Mary Lydia Ryan—vocals, piano

Guest artists:

Dale Fanning—drums
Arne Livingston—electric bass
Amy Denio—accordion, sax
Omar Torrez—guitar
Ted Kamp—acoustic bass
Sky Diamond—electric guitar
Pat Coy—drums on 2 tracks
Nick—saxophone on 1 track
Rick—trumpet on 1 track

Produced by:

Timothy Killian

Comments:

I liked her first self-titled cd quite a bit, but this new one I LOVE. The new disc blows the old one out of the water. It has everything going for it that her first disc has (her lovely, warm voice and great piano and creative and melodic song structures) but she's pushed it to the next level—the songs are just that much more catchy and her performances just that much more varied and engaging and powerful. The album starts with this incredibly catchy song called "devil with wings" (ie., "You're not an angel / you're a devil with wings") and never lets up. The whole album is excellent, especially songs like "Begging" and "Liar", and it moves from powerhouse songs to haunting ballads without losing its flow. It's full of wonderful lyrical and sonic hooks. Stunning. This album keeps making me hit the repeat button. The strength of her songwriting on this album has made it one that I sink into more and more each time I hear it. There's a variety of moods here and she expresses them all so well. And there are just some amazingly catchy tunes and lyrics. I highly, highly recommend it. (Neile)

I'm still drooling over mary lydia ryan's diaphanous which is probably being played an average of at least once a day. It's similar to the first album, in terms of being smooth, melodic, jazz-influenced, piano-based, but with more variety of styles. More experimental. Perhaps more upbeat too? I just keep listening to it, and I keep getting the songs stuck in my head when the album isn't on. This is tied for the album I would most miss if I had to give up my 1999 releases. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Wow! This is such a big step forward from her first album—which was good, but fairly bland and monotonous—mostly "pretty ballads". Here, there's quite a few different styles represented, and the addition of Amy Denio's sax and accordion rules! I know Neile is stuck on "Devil with Wings", which I've really grown to like, but my favorite track so far—"Begging Me"—I'd love to see someone do some animated dance number to this—á la Fantasia. Such a fun tune. This one has really grown on me rapidly—highly, highly recommended. Also gets my vote for best cover design of the year (if not decade). I've got to praise this one yet again—a real surprise. I've gone back to listen to her debut album and have found some great songs on it as well, but it certainly didn't make the impression this one did. My top disc of 1999. (jjhanson@att.net)

One of my year's top ten. (afries@zip.com.au)

I like it quite a bit, but it hasn't completely clicked with me yet. (mcurry@io.com)

I really like this a lot more than her first, eponymous release, although I liked that well enough. The "fuller sound" does her justice, and I don't think there are any tunes on the disc I don't like. Highly recommended. (Matt.Bittner)

One of my favourite albums of 1999. (gordoja@optonline.net)


Sunshine & Second Chances

Release info:

2011—MLR Music

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Mary Lydia Ryan—piano, vocals

Produced by:

Mary Lydia Ryan

Comments:

It's so nice to have new Mary Lydia Ryan to listen to, and such a lovely album at that. At first it seemed soft and pretty and not as "deep" as Diaphanous, which I really, really love and still listen to regularly. But it has grown on me a lot. It is a very pretty album—both the vocals and the piano work—and that is precisely why I enjoy listening to it. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Moving in Grace

Release info:

2015—MLR Music—004

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Mary Lydia Ryan—piano

Produced by:

Mary Lydia Ryan

Comments:

I'm not generally a fan of solo piano music, but I find Mary Lydia Ryan's instrumentals to be quite lovely. "Danny Whispers" was one of my favorite tracks on Sunshine & Second Chances. This new album is quiet, but with movement and energy; relaxing but not sleepy. I rather enjoy it. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Thanks to Marion Kippers and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2016-06-25 15:11:26.
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