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Spreading the Word

Regional, local musicians help raise money, awareness for 4th annual breast cancer benefit

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Now Blakey and Cary are two of the three cogs that turn the wheels of Tres Chicas, which also features Hazeldine's Tonya Lamm. Together their three voices rise in sweet harmony, taking turns with the pen, turning out ballads of sublime beauty like Blakey's "Sweetwater," the title track of their new record.

"Playing music is funny, it's like dating someone, you don't just date anybody -- you might try and then think "this is sucking,' but still have three hours of the date left. That's how it's like when you get together to play music with someone -- you know within a minute whether you want to make music with them. But you can't just instantly stand up and go, "you know, this isn't going to work.' And sometimes you don't listen to those instincts, and you end up playing with people you shouldn't be playing with, and then realize 40 years later you never quite did what you wanted to do," Blakey says, laughing at her own metaphor.

"I was nervous -- not to play (the song "Sweetwater") for Caitlin, but I didn't know Tonya as well. I thought she was real good and I thought, "what if she hates it?' As soon as I started to play it, I was fine, and when it came to the chorus they started singing along," says Blakey.

While they were initially consumed with passion for the project, other things seemed to step in the way -- Lamm's pregnancy, Cary's suddenly burgeoning solo career, Blakey's new album with her band, Glory Fountain. And just as suddenly, the storm passed, and they again found the time to work together, and the energy followed. The soaring three-part harmonies are certainly a highlight, but just as powerful are the songs that approach the heartache of life with a grudging acceptance and understanding that appreci-ates the long road and many detours -- including the unplanned ones.

Ryan career alive and well -- mostly overseas
By John Schacht

Matthew Ryan is one of those guys. Seemingly a fully formed mature songwriter when he emerged at 25, he burst onto the scene in 1997 with a critically acclaimed major-label (A&M) debut, Mayday, toured like crazy, played Letterman and Conan, released a more challenging sophomore effort that didn't sell, got dropped by A&M, faded from the spotlight, and eventually became a music industry unto himself.An Every Musician for the times. Frankly, Ryan prefers it this way.

"I feel more successful now than I did back then during my first record because I feel like I've proven to myself that I'm my own engine," says Ryan. "When I did Letterman earlier on, it meant nothing to anybody except me. To me it was a moment of absolute disbelief, but to everybody else that was around at the time, it was just business."

It was business that did him in at A&M, of course. 2000's East Autumn Grin didn't live up to the (sales) promise of Mayday despite being a more interesting record sonically. But if he's done nothing else over the course of six full-length releases, Ryan has established a confident voice -- his own. Whether his approach differs from record to record has become almost immaterial; the honesty of the songs is what you remember.

Vocally, Ryan often sounds like America's answer to Mike Scott of the Waterboys, each verse a desperate struggle to tame his emotions, every chorus rife with release and abandon. But the lyrics on his quieter numbers get spat out like tracers, meant to be felt more than heard, recalling heroes like Dylan, Cohen and Petty.

Ryan grew up just outside of Philadelphia and says that city still informs much of his lyrical content. Admitting he's had "blue collar issues," his songs on occasion even invoke that other "blue-collar issues" guy from just across the state line, Bruce Springsteen -- especially on 2001's Concussion, Ryan's Nebraska. But after 10 years in Nashville -- which he suggests has made him "more of a Yankee," even as he reads Larry Brown's Father and Son -- he says the South has definitely crept into his music.

"I find the Southern use of the physical, the environment, in writing, fascinating," Ryan says. "Lucinda (Williams) is really great at that, as far as explaining what was on the table -- how much coffee was in the cup, what the cup looked like. I think those are all important details, particularly when you're in some slow-motion event."

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