Ryan Beattie, the Himalayan Bear, has obviously sprung from the same roots as Buddy Holly, Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison, Billy Burnette, and the twangier side of Lindsay Buckingham. He takes an intensely personal tack in all he does, so there's a decidedly eccentric bent to the old-timey environment he sets up, The Caballo, for instance, sounding like Roy Wood jumped in to co-write, providing his latter-day jagged 50s branch-out. I'll warn the listener that the soundfield in Hard Times is almost brutally naked, even when a semi-orchestral swell rises, because Beattie loves reverb and verite, not to mention the presence of bad boy with a breaking heart caught in the spotlight.
Wouldn't surprise me a bit if I caught this guy on stage and he was sporting a pomaded ducktail and checked shirt decked in rhinestone glimmer…nor would I be much shocked to catch him in that scene in a seedy speakeasy on the Lower East Side with a buncha JDs and floozies slinking about in a smoke-filled cavern. There's that kinda Twin Peaksy vibe here, reminiscent while weird and almost creepy (so, yeah, think of Blue Velvet and madman Dennis Hopper as well). I suspect that's what many will like most about this CD: it's strange in the sort of eerily familiar way that almost makes the skin crawl.
Ya-hum…the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that this is the kind of work Angelo Badalamenti would write if he were jagged on ketamine and feeling like a back alley Beelzebub after choking down a fifth of Ol' 50s Bourbon, Industrial Grade. Even Neil Young would sit up and and exclaim "What the eff is goin' on here?", looking around apprehensively, feeling the lurk of evil and doom behind him. Hard Times is not what you think it is when you first dive in, and the disc only gets weirder each track. And, whew!…man, that guitar solo in Half Wit Son! Even as disparate a couple of gents as Jon Spencer and Kelley Joe Phelps would admit that this cat is on a twisted vibe and about as unlikely to be able to shed it as to cut off an arm.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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