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Ryan Hurd

EF Country

Ryan Hurd – ‘Pelago’ review

The singer-songwriter delivers one of the best debuts of the year.

Ryan Hurd has quite the impressive list of achievements when it comes to penning number one hits for some of the biggest stars in Country music. The Chicago-born singer-songwriter has been behind number ones for the likes of Blake Shelton, Lady A and Luke Bryan. Since 2016, Hurd has been releasing his own music starting with ‘We Do Us’. His 2018 release ‘To A T’ was his first Platinum single as an artist and his current single, ‘Chasing After You’ featuring his wife and fellow Country singer Maren Morris, is shaping up to be his biggest commercial success yet. With that song threatening to hit number one any day now, it’s the perfect time for Hurd to unleash his debut solo album ‘Pelago’.

The 11-track release (or 15-track if you get your hands on the streaming version) mixes sun-drenched island positivity with heartbreak, providing the perfect soundtrack to reflect on the summer as we move into autumn. The album opens with ‘Pass It On’, a song that embodies positivity about paying it forward and sharing the good things in your life with other people. The lyrics feel particularly relevant given the tough near two-years the world has gone through thanks to the pandemic. Eagle-eyed fans will notice that Maren appears on backing vocals on the track, and several others across the record.

‘Pelago’ could pretty much be split into two sections. One half are songs with an island feel such as ‘Coast’ and ‘June, July, August’, that take you back to those hazy summer days that have just come to an end, and are littered with references to the likes of Bob Marley and Kenny Chesney. The second half focuses on heartbreak such as the reggae-lite ‘Hell Is An Island’ and the piano ballad ‘The Knife or The Hatchet’, which stands out as one of the strongest tracks on the record. Hurd effortlessly moves between the two different types of songs, showcasing his versatility and packing plenty of different sounds across the 11 tracks.

The standout moment for me on the record though is ‘If I Had Two Hearts’, a song that is a perfect blend of traditional and modern Country. Hurd’s voice has an endearing quivering drawl in the more sensitive moments, and he draws you into the lyrics he’s singing. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one’s a single somewhere down the line along this album campaign.

Elsewhere on the record Hurd sings about an enduring love on ‘Palm Trees in Ohio’, channels Snow Patrol on the shimmering guitar-led ‘Tab With My Name On It’, and lets his voice soar on the yearning ‘What Are You Drinking’. Closing track ‘I Never Said I’m Sorry’ brings the album to a close as Hurd reflects on the good times in a relationship that eventually fizzled out acknowledging that he never apologised for his part in its demise.

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For the streaming release, there are four additional tracks – ‘Platonic’, ‘Every Other Memory’, ‘To A T’ and ‘Diamonds or Twine’ – all of which will be familiar to fans as they’ve been released over the past couple of years. I wish they’d been on the physical release too as each of those songs have been important in Hurd’s journey up to now.

‘Pelago’ succeeds in sounding like nothing else out there in Country right now. It’s an album that’s been crafted with passion, and that is evident on every song. Hurd has a distinctive voice and he’s very much operating in his own lane on this record. There are plenty of potential singles and ‘Pelago’ is going to sound fantastic live once Hurd manages to get out on a headline tour in support of it. One of the best debuts of the year? Absolutely, so go grab your copy and don’t sleep on this gem of a record.

Ryan Hurd - Pelago
Credit: Sony Music

Track listing: 1. Pass It On 2. Coast 3. Chasing After You (feat. Maren Morris) 4. June, July, August 5. Palm Trees in Ohio 6. If I Had Two Hearts 7. Tab With My Name On It 8. What Are You Drinking 9. Hell Is An Island 10. The Knife or the Hatchet 11. I Never Said I’m Sorry Streaming Bonus Tracks 12. Platonic 13. Every Other Memory 14. To A T 15. Diamonds or Twine Record label: Sony Music Release date: 15th October 2021 Buy ‘Pelago’ now

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