Artist: Ryan Schmidt
And so I have finally circled back around to Ryan Schmidt's debut album. I started in the middle, worked my way to the present, and now we're back to 2008. Burning Bitter Years was released just about the same time Ryan graduated from high school. And yes, I did say that was 2008. So...the same year my husband and I were celebrating our 10th anniversary, Ryan Schmidt was graduating from high school...but have I mentioned how young you can get married in Kentucky?? Anyway, if you ask me (and since you're reading this, I'll kind of assume you did), this is a really impressive example of songwriting for a kid in high school. In fact, Burning Bitter Years and Ryan himself have completely changed my opinion on young songwriters. Besides, let's be honest, who knows pure angst better than teenagers? Sure, older folks have the market on real heartbreak and hard times, but our connection to the gut wrenching experience of finding our true selves is never closer than during those awkward years between being a kid and being an adult.
Now, don't get me wrong, these songs aren't on the same level as those on White Horse or Black Sheep, Run, but they're not supposed to be. That's one thing that really makes me love this record - it's a first step. When you listen to the three of them in succession, you can really see the progression of his songwriting and the execution of it. That's what records are supposed do. They should chronicle the artist's career and Burning Bitter Years is a great opening chapter in that story. Another thing I love about this record is the potential it holds. When you compare this one with the two he put out while in college, it makes the prospect of what's in store for us now that he's out of school altogether (well, almost) very exciting.
However, even without all the context that we have now, this is just a really good collection of songs. They cover lots of ground too, all over the spectrum of love and life. My favorite example is the title track. Of course, just the guitar in that song alone kills. What an incredible sound. Then there is "Ten Days", which is about a 10 day license suspension (remind me to never speed in New Hampshire). I'm sure it really sucked at the time, but I have to admit I find that song pretty amusing now, especially after I figured out what it was really about. Overall, I find Burning Bitter Years to just be a great example of a songwriter starting to find his voice.