Reason 27, Hard to Believe | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Reason 27, Hard to Believe 

Album Review

Published May 6, 2009 at 6:50 a.m.


(Self-released, CD)

I know, I know. Never judge a book by its cover. Or a CD, for that matter. Still, the first impression given by the sleeve of local pop-rock trio Reason 27’s debut Hard to Believe is inauspicious, to say the least. The cover in question features the band’s members coolly leaning against a backyard deck overlooking a typical Vermont country scene. In the center stands bandleader Doug Ryan, curiously bedecked in a top hat, with a playing card — the ace of spades — peeking out from the pocket of his short-sleeved, collared shirt. Actually, a Dockers-clad Mad Hatter is not a bad allegory for the quirkily adventurous but rather charmingly un-hip music found within.

The disc begins with the piano-driven “Reasons.” Vocalist Casey Ryan boasts a smooth, boyish delivery not unlike that of Ben Folds, an acknowledged influence. Multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Doug Ryan, best known for his work with local bar band Sturcrazie, is the group’s centerpiece. Buoyed by Eric Foye’s dextrous percussion work, he unfurls snappy slap-bass licks amid punchy, dissonant piano lines — the latter of which Doug also plays, though presumably not simultaneously. There’s no question that the dude has chops. But his technical zeal can get the better of him: Unwieldy low-end ramblings sometimes prove more distracting than complementary, no matter how slickly played.

Lighter-worthy ballad “Won’t Mean Anything” follows. Doug Ryan’s versatility is verified as he weaves a baleful sax around lilting acoustic guitar. Casey Ryan again proves an immensely capable vocalist, rescuing Doug’s borderline saccharine, romantic lyrics with heartfelt and winsome tact.

As a tunesmith, Doug is puckishly clever, though somewhat derivative — let’s just say there’s at least one local songwriter who remembers Steely Dan fondly. He seduces the listener with accessible pop melodies. But any conventional contrivances are waylaid by chameleonic chord progressions and jazzy rhythmic shifts.

Doug is similarly devious — and, occasionally, similarly trite — in his lyrics. While you won’t find many life-altering pearls of wisdom within Hard to Believe, songs such as “No Show,” “Feed Me Something More” and “Ourselves” — the last of which features an engaging string arrangement and lovely viola work by Augusto Salazar — hint at a sly and often humorous poetic prowess.

So, maybe you really can’t judge an album on face value alone. Or, even if you can, you probably shouldn’t. Either way, those who approach Reason 27’s Hard to Believe with an open mind will likely find an enjoyable, if safe, journey down the rabbit hole.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Dan Bolles

Dan Bolles

Dan Bolles is Seven Days' assistant arts editor and also edits What's Good, the annual city guide to Burlington. He has received numerous state, regional and national awards for his coverage of the arts, music, sports and culture. He loves dogs, dark beer and the Boston Red Sox.


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Album Review

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2022 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation