What do most singer/songwriters have in common? Usually it’s the melancholic, thought-provoking tales and forlorn subject matter: incredibly personal stories of strife audiences find it easy to empathise with. Just minutes into the debut full length album Room For Light by Ryan Keen you understand that is what this man and his music is all about.
Perhaps he sums it up best on single-cut Skin And Bones when he cries ‘a darker place has more room for light.’ It’s gloriously poetic phrases such as this that are rife across the album and marks him as a genuine talent for lyrical imagery. But it’s not all lovely turns of phrase and gentle remarks of life, there is substance to his stories that hint at moments of darkness that punctuate the record. From witnessing a young university friend die of heart failure to nightmare instances with accidentally slashed wrists just days before opening for Ed Sheeran, there is a traveled and experience heavy mood to the twelve songs that make up Room For Light.
Ryan Keen’s voice has a hoarseness to it that many will find endearing, especially considering some of the stuff he sings about, and the guitar work is gentle and hypnotic. Moments of Andy McKee strength guitar tapping on Orelia and See Me Now are particularly welcome. Many will recognise Old Scars with its lazy day rhythm from last year’s Back To The Ocean EP before the busy finger-picking of Trouble takes over.
What is clear from this album is that taking the time to tour his previous EP has given him a confidence and wealth of experience that has seen his popularity grow very quickly indeed. Radio play from Radio 1 and touring slots with the likes of Sheeran, Ben Howard and Leona Lewis has seen the folksy troubadour employ a dedicated work ethic that has seen him grace over 200 stages in the last 12 months.
Ryan Keen’s debut album is good, and easy on the ears, perfect for a weekend chill out round the house or a slow stroll through the countryside. His music is not revolutionary and there is perhaps not much to separate his music from other singer/songwriters in the genre but in reality this doesn’t matter. Fans of Ben Howard, Ed Sheeran and the growing trend of folk-based singers will enjoy this album. Well worth a listen.