The once-well-known ethos of Anna’s Anchor – “honest music for honest people” – hasn’t gone unrealised. In a scene consisting of more confessional singer-songwriters than ever before, Marty Ryan has been able to forge ahead through stellar detailed in his writing buoyed by enormous emotion, aspects that culminated in 2016’s excellent Nautical Miles. Since then though, the Irish troubadour has once again been fueled by struggle, culminating in the origins of this album that saw Ryan isolate himself in a rented cottage in Cork over Christmas 2016 to write over ten days.
And like Nautical Miles, Everybody’s Welcome is consistently able to hold its own among a lot of similar work, coming in the naturally soft lilt in Ryan’s Irish accent, but primarily in the heart that’s clearly gone into it and how that’s mirrored in the pensiveness of the performance. Though primarily acoustic driven, there’s a richness that comes in a lot of the full-band work, and tracks like 8 Hours In Stansted and 50 States almost perfectly encapsulate the sense of wind-dragged colournlessness that always allows greater emotional rigor to shine through. In terms of overall instrumentation, it’s not far removed from a lot of the Xtra Mile camp, both in intent and execution, and nowhere is that more prevalent than Johnny Cash Was A Punk, stripped back to a simple acoustic melody to accentuate Ryan’s vulnerability all the more. It’s all very no-frills, sure, and that can sometimes compromise how effective something like this can be (particularly when its an approach that so many others have taken to), but the majority of the time, it really does sound great.
That’s not even mentioning the weight that the writing brings, taking a more critical look at life from mature eyes and the false promises made through conforming to the birth-school-work lifestyle. It’s definitely good throughout – songs like Precautionary and Summer Camp have that hollowness that works within Ryan’s own mindset – but easily the standout moment in this regard is White Washed Corridor, the lament on the lack of mental health services provided by the Irish government as Ryan takes on the role of his mother’s career following her alcohol abuse. It’s this type of song that really hits the hardest on an album like this, and though Everybody’s Welcome struggles to muster anything quite like it elsewhere (particularly towards the end where it really does begin to dip), to have this as an emotional locus for everything else to build off feels like a sensible, and ultimately fruitful choice.
And to be clear, this isn’t any boundary-pushing opus by any degree; if anything, it’s probably the safest route that Ryan could’ve possibly taken. But by accentuating simplicity and heart above everything else, Everybody’s Welcome is able to have that effect that lets it stay longer. Even if it’s not quite as strong overall as Nautical Miles, it’s another praiseworthy milestone hit under the Anna’s Anchor brand, something that’s been greatly earned on all counts.
For fans of: Frank Turner, Fatherson, Frightened Rabbit
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Everybody’s Welcome’ by Anna’s Anchor is released on 14th September of Failure By Design Records.