Florida native, Ryan Griffin, released his debut EP Sake of the Summer, in March. Why I didn’t listen to the whole thing sooner is beyond me, but it’s time we talk about it. The following five songs are full of love and heartbreak and the tinges of summer passion, but more importantly, there is some serious talent here. Let’s get to work.
Track One: “Back Seats & Burnt CDs”
If you have Sirius XM The Highway on your radio, then you’ve heard this opening track a time or two. As a new “Highway Find” Ryan Griffin is about to take off and this is where it’s going to start. The track sets the tone for the summer theme that is laced throughout this aptly named EP. Griffin is going to connect with young summer lovers as he depicts the ultimate summer fling. Heated Friday nights, the car that got you there and the ending that you knew was coming. The opening lyrics are “Like a red sunset you can’t quite catch up to//You were not for me//Girl I was bad for you.” I think we know where this is going, and we all love it. The first thing you will notice about Griffin’s style is the perfect way he builds a song. This track is a perfect example. Starting with a soft first verse that highlights the quality of his Keith Urban like voice with just lead guitar and light rhythm, he slowly builds to the chorus by adding strong clapping effects and the drums. The direction is fantastic and it all comes to a climax with full vocals on the title lyrics “Back seats and burnt CDs” before dramatically dropping out to begin the second verse. Repeat this process through to the bridge and we have a perfectly formulated song that adds just the right amount of passion to the lyrics. Griffin is off to a strong start right out of the gate.
Track Two: “Woulda Left Me Too”
Honestly, I almost only reviewed this song because it has so much to offer. This is hands down the best track on this EP and what is making me so excited about what Griffin has to offer next. The first thing that needs to be addressed is the subject matter. This track is a man expressing his regret for how things went between him and his ex, but what will get every listener is how real every lyric is. Let’s just look at the first verse: “You can’t lie to yourself sitting in a crowded room//Not long before the walls start whispering back to you//They saw everything//And tell the truth in picture frames//You gave me every second chance//I didn’t realize//There would come a last one//Right before your goodbye//And I understood just in time to be too late.” It’s nearly impossible for me to resist sitting here and typing out the entire track for you. The reason this song is so easy to connect to, is because everyone has had the kind of heartbreak where you just want the other person to understand that you tried so hard, and maybe they weren’t ready or they didn’t realize what you did. But someday you just hope they look back and think about what could have gone differently. And on the other side of the coin, maybe we’ve been the person who ruined everything because we were closed off and unaware of what was right in front of us. Griffin isn’t afraid to lay it all out there and be real here. The man in this song claims “I deserve every tear I cry for hurting you//The truth is//I woulda left me too” and all of a sudden, you’re even committed to the couple. The lyrics, the story, it’s country to the core, but the vocals change the game. Griffin is astounding here, his voice is rich and clearly filled with emotion, making the song what it is. The subdued back beat is perfect and the acoustic guitar is mastered just right to compliment Griffin’s voice. You mix all of that with the story that Griffin tells here, and you are all in before the first verse is even done. Bravo.
Track Three: “Young Love”
We found the Sam Hunt influence, ladies and gentlemen. “Young Love” starts with rhythmic vocals that build into an incredibly energy filled chorus that has all the right parts; strong vocals with harmony, crashing cymbals and great lyrics. But it’s the beat that drives this whole thing; the R&B influence laced throughout that shows, yet again, how customized Griffin’s songs are. This man put care into his work. There is not a single song on the EP that could have used more attention. This track talks about that insane feeling you get from a young love, that high that comes from getting incredibly excited about one person. “Everyone thought we were crazy//But we weren’t looking for safety//We were young and naïve//Thought we know everything//But we didn’t know anything at all.” The creativity in these lyrics is what sets it apart from your typical reflective love song. This especially apples to the chorus that perfectly captures what that first love feels like when it’s all done and you’re still searching for that high later on: “It’s the first time that lasts//The one that you want back//But you can’t have it back, can’t re-do//Can’t erase the past//It’s a part of who you are//All grown up with a broken heart.” I warned you, this is love filled EP, but it’s acceptable because it is done right.
Track Four: “Sake of the Summer”
Title track time. But first, it needs to be noted that Ryan Griffin got one more thing extremely right when he wrote these songs. He focused on the first line. Garth Brooksonce said that the most important part of any song is the opening line, and it’s rare that you find an artist that truly understands that. But guess what, he’s here. Alright, so let’s see how Griffin opens this summer love track: “Your frozen margarita hands//Like ice on sunburned skin//hurt like hell but felt so good.” You want to hear the rest of the story now, don’t you? The flow of the lyrics is rhythmically fantastic, as well. Griffin drives between lines with ease, keeping the pace up and the song intriguing to the ear. The first time you hear this song, you won’t be able to help the groove you feel. The band is perfectly in sync, the lead guitar adds just the right touch and Griffin isn’t afraid to play around and customize. I think we have a new track to add to the summer playlist.
Track Five: “Drinkin’ to Do”
Man, are you in for a ride with this. I want to start by saying that this EP doesn’t end on a happy note, it ends on a real note. It’s just piano, some light electronic touches and the Ryan Griffin voice that I think we’ve all come to love by the end of this EP, and he’s got a story to tell. It’s a pretty common story, heartbreak and reflection over a bottle, but this time it’s said in a raw way and it’s the last thing that Griffin has to say to us. “I might be reckless//Yeah I’m guessing I’ll be hurtin’ when I’m through//But I’ll be one hangover closer to over you.” I can’t give away all the good parts of the song, but for the sake of heartbreak everywhere, just go listen to this song.
Honestly, I don’t know why this is the end track, I’m not going to speak for an artist (though my review may have made some assumptions), but one thing we can appreciate is how this track, and really how this whole EP, adds to country music. Sometimes, artists get stuck in a rut of releasing new music that just fits the mold. We get songs that will make it big on the radio based on who’s singing it, or because it has one catchy line. But how often do we get someone new who is just real? This song, this EP, the whole thing is one artist who is doing what he loves and he’s doing it right. I’m a fan, you should be too.
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