A week on from its release to Pledgers, and after a fair few listens, it’s about time to pop up a few words about the new release from Ryan Hamilton… and his Traitors. Formerly a one-man act, Ryan recently drafted in Rob Lane and Mickey Richards to cover string and skin rhythms respectively, forming the band now known as The Traitors. They toured together with Ginger and this is their first formal album as a trio.
I’ll obviously compare it to Ryan’s last, solo, outing Hell of a Day which was one of my albums of the year in 2015. The thing is, it’s not easy to compare as Ryan’s definitely gone for something a little different rather than getting stuck in a (albeit superb) rut. That record was quite heartfelt, emotive, summery and acoustic and while there are shades of that on The Devil’s in the Detail, on the whole the new record is rougher and rockier.
What he has kept is his Texan drawl with its obvious country rock influence, and the sounds of classic acts – your Tom Pettys and Rolling Stones namechecked on the last album. Added into that mix, very much so in the first track “Smarter”, is a more modern influence… Ginger Wildheart. I defy any Wildhearts fan not to sense Ginger’s hand at work at around the 50 second mark as the guitars build and drive in chorus. It was the first thing that really hit me about the album, that told me that this was going to be different to Hell of a Day. That and the steel guitar through the last verse…
“We Never Should Have Moved to L.A.” has an introductory riff that Ryan could sell to Bowling For Soup. The rest of the song is purely him (Sorry – “them”! Apologies, Traitors!), though. Sweet, simple, catchy and as summery as Summer gets while still managing to hide a repeated reference to the most forbidden word on television. Ending with a rhythm that’s dying for a Queen-style hands-above-the-head clap-a-long, you have just another in a long string of great songs from Ryan’s writing pad.
I don’t want to make this a track-by-track, but some songs have to be mentioned individually. “Heavy Heart” is one as it’s simply beautiful. It pulls at the strings of the eponymous organ and is the complete flipside of the usual bubblegum happiness and carefree attitude of Ryan’s usual fare. I’m sitting here listening to it as I write and I honest-to-goodness have chills. And not just because it’s gone 11pm in Glasgow and it’s frickin’ cold.
Songs like “Scottish Mud”, “The Gulf of Mexico” and “Drugs and Fashion” raise the tempo again, while “Cheaters Never Change” is obviously Ryan letting off some lyrical steam about something that bothers him. “Strength in Numbers” is The Devil’s‘ “Freak Flag”. Not quite a protest song, but certainly one about standing your ground and with a chorus every bit as rousing.
Chrissy Barnacle adds her vocals to “Don’t Say I Told You So” and, bloody hell, she’s incredible. Some may say this is just a rehash of including Kelly from The Dollyrots on Hell of a Day, but Chrissy is a very different singer in a very different song. Hell, this album features one brilliant artist from my homeland in Ginger, and another from my adopted home in Glasgow courtesy of Chrissy’s input. I’m proud of both!
The album ends on a slow, chilled out note with “It Ain’t Easy”… or at least you think it does until the hidden track (“Ode to the Idiots”) kicks in and rocks your balls off for the last ninety seconds. Don’t skip it!
The Devil’s in the Detail is very much not Hell of a Day part 2. Whereas that was a solo album, this is definitely an ensemble piece. Ryan’s taken influence from so many sources that he had to end up with something different. We still have his chirpy yet emotive tone, but the humour has toned down a little. On the other hand, this one rocks a bit more. There’s no “Records and Needles” which still remains my favourite Hamilton track of all time, but on the other hand the last album doesn’t have a “Heavy Heart”.
Therein lies this album’s strength and weakness – it’s quite different from the last one so there’s no guarantee you’ll like it just because Hell of a Day was your kind of thing. But that’s what I love about it. We’ve moved on and hearing more of what Ryan can create, especially now that he’s in cahoots with Rob and Mickey. We’ll always have Hell. Now we just have the Devil to sit alongside it.
Pledgers should already have the The Devil’s In The Detail, but it goes on general release on February 14th 2017. Ryan will be doing a solo acoustic tour of the UK around the same time.
Header photo by Kayla Wren