When it comes to finding new and upcoming artists in country and Americana, I feel I do a pretty job. But obviously I can’t find and hear them all. So when I looked over Rolling Stone’s 10 New Country Artists You Need To Know last November, I saw a name on it I hadn’t heard of that caught my eye and that was Ryan Beaver. Rolling Stone compared him to Will Hoge and Dierks Bentley, which after hearing him I can definitely hear. Beaver hails from Texas, but has established himself as a singer-songwriter in Nashville the last few years. Over this time he has written a lot of songs while waiting for his chance to release the record he wants to release. Now that the current environment is becoming more accepting of…well what I would call quality, mature music from the likes of Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson, Beaver has released his third album Rx. The reason Beaver named it this is because he described making this record as “therapeutic” and healing. And you can definitely feel this in most of the songs.
Beaver kicks the album off with “Dark,” appropriately titled considering the theme of the song. It’s about a heartbroken man who just wants to be left alone in the dark while his heart heals. The gritty guitar play really compliments the lyrics and gives the song some teeth. Beaver says he wrote this song after losing his grandfather and close friend, making “Dark” quite personal. It’s the reason he made it the album’s lead single and song. It’s the perfect song to begin the album with and get you interested in it because it draws you in with ease. Staying in that same dark and gritty place, “Rum & Roses” is a song that deals with the day after. Beaver really impresses me with his vocals on this song and the guitar play is once again really good. If you enjoy garage rock meets country, you’ll enjoy this song.
“Fast” is one of a few songs on this album that just doesn’t quite work for me. It’s about a man and woman drinking and possibly leading to more later on and the guy enjoy how fast they’re getting to that point. It’s really not much different from the slow sex jams we’ve heard on country radio in the past year or so. Yes the songwriting is better and more mature, but the theme doesn’t deviate much from it at all. The instrumentation also feels more generic rock than country. It’s an okay song that I probably won’t remember. The next song, “When This World Ends,” is another one that feels a lot like what you would hear on country radio. Not just because the song has an overall pop vibe about it, but also because the theme has been done to death. It’s about being in love and the world ending and I think you know where this is going. I’ll admit it is pretty catchy and not necessarily a bad song. Also if you’re wondering, that’s Maren Morris as the female background vocalist, fellow Texan and friend of Beaver.
“Jesus Was A Capricorn” is a short and light opener to “Kristofferson,” Beaver’s ode to the iconic singer-songwriter. “Jesus Was A Capricorn” of course is one of Kristofferson’s better known songs and Beaver plays a snippet of it to introduce his song about him. As for “Kristofferson,” it’s about the rocky life of a troubadour. The lyrics are decent, although it takes a few listens to figure out where Beaver is going with it. The song really just kind of meanders and doesn’t really say much other than that. I’m not really sure how this has anything to do with Kris Kristofferson because the hook of the word “Kristofferson” feels jammed in and forced. Beaver gets back on track with “Habit,” where once again Morris shows up as a background vocalist. The song is about a man knowing his woman has a habit to pack up her stuff and leave, as he’s saw it so many times before. The production is a tad overdone, but I like the space-y sound it gives off.
One of my favorite tracks on Rx is “Vegas.” Playing on the phrase “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” the song is about a man realizing this really isn’t true, as the memories of a weekend he spent with a woman in Vegas aren’t really going away. She’s left him and now he continues to be haunted by her and their time in Vegas. Not only did that weekend break his bank, but his heart too. This is Beaver’s songwriting at it’s best. The heavy “Gravedigger” is about a woman making life hell for a man. She’s pure poison to him and she’s made him realize how low his life can really get. The whole song has a haunting vibe about it and really sets the mood well for the song. This is probably the coolest sounding song on the album.
The conventional “Still Yours” is a love song with a catchy hook. Unlike “Fast” and “When This World Ends,” this song does a good job of balancing a country sound and being accessible to mainstream audiences. It’s solid, yet unspectacular. The album title track deals with heartbreak and finding ways to cope with it. The heartbroken man says it takes a little more medicine for him to get over it, which I’m assuming are time and drinking. “Rx” is another solid track, although it could have been better with a more impactful production. Rx closes out with “If I Had A Horse.” It’s a reflective, solemn song where Beaver wishes he could go back and change some of the things in his past. Not only does he wish some stuff would change, but he remembers his days of youth and how his imagination would run wild, which was slowly killed off by growing up. The songwriting is pretty sharp on this song and the production is spot on. I would argue this is the best song on the album, so Beaver saved the best for last.
With all of the hype I was hearing about this album and Ryan Beaver from critical circles, I’ll admit I was expecting a little more. But I wouldn’t say Rx is a disappointment. It’s a very solid country album with smart songwriting for the most part. There’s just a few songs that aren’t quite up to grade with the rest and the production gets a little carried away at times. The rest of the album though is an enjoyable listen once it grows on you. Beaver is a great songwriter who I believe still has even better songs yet to come because his career feels so young, despite being a singer-songwriter for years now and this being his third album. Nevertheless I would recommend checking out Ryan Beaver and Rx, especially if you enjoy artists like Eric Church and Kip Moore. I’m looking forward to hearing more from Beaver in the future because I think he’s capable of making great music for years to come.