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LOST DIAMOND ANGEL (Ambitious) • Jimmy Ryan

Loving this record took about five minutes. And it got better after that. Just about everything cool about American music shows up.

This is one mandolin disc that frickin rocks. It's a groove album by a mandolin virtuoso, let me clear that up. Cat definitely puts the man in mandolin. Famous for his work in The Blood Oranges (his publishing company is called sanguine citrus), he's also released three CDs with the Beacon Hill Billies and one with Wooden Leg, and has appeared on many records of other artists. On his overdue debut Lost Diamond Angel Jimmy plays all manner of mandolins and mandocello, slide mando, 5 string nasty ass, the works. He also tracks Baritone guitar, harmonica, and piano.

Ryan's originally from Binghamton, NY, but has long been a fixture of the Boston scene. Although far from a stranger to it, he's no mere grasser, admittedly tied closer to the playing of Ry Cooder or oud master Hamza el Din than he is toward pointless emulations of the grassmasters. And his core membership in the gloriously eclectic Hi-n-Dry Studios crowd of Billy Conway and Co. (see more about them in our interview with Kris Delmhorst) assured that this would be a great record, that's what they do up there. His main recording companions here include producer Billy Conway on drums, Andrew Mazzone on bass, Duke Levine on guitars, and Catie Curtis and Christian McNeill both sing some great backing vocals. But Ryan's songs really clinched the deal, those and his macho plaintive, unpretentious vocal style.

A friend and I were talking last night about the joyful experience of running into someone whom you recognized as one of your people. Lost Diamond Angel reminds me that such a thing is possible even without meeting somebody face to face. Don't be surprised if the CD has a similar effect on you, because it is generous and inclusive--it's subtly open handed, a very listenable and likeable record, two things that I think are much more rare than they sound.

I really enjoyed seeing Jimmy perform at the Station Inn during the last Americana Convention here in Nashville, but even that great show didn't prepare me for how much I was gonna like this record. We'd call him an essential Americana artist, and we think you should buy this record, which you can do right here. • FG

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