For those who like their pigeonholes neat and tidy, Jimmy Ryan is an unsettling proposition. He plays mandolin with the old-timey pluck of a bluegrass breakdown, but he also plays it with the ferocity of rock guitarist. What else would you expect of a left-handed rebel who began his career by playing both in a bluegrass combo (Pine Island) and a punk band (Decentz)?
That melding of styles made Ryan a pioneer of the so-called “alt-country” scene in the late ’80s when he founded and fronted the bluegrass-tinged rock band The Blood Oranges. And the same eclectic approach makes him one of the most dynamic singer-songwriters on the rich Boston Americana scene today.
“What do you get when you combine a crooning bluegrass mandolin master, a veteran bassist, a fiddler who plays through fuzz boxes and wah-wah pedals, sounding more like Jimi Hendrix than Papa John Creach, and a big band swing drummer who inexplicably feels moved to pound the skins harder than John Bonham on a bender? Do you call it country, folk, bluegrass, rock ‘n’ roll, or maybe just a freak of nature?
Just call it Wooden Leg, and give the group room to do its thing. It’s much safer that way.”
-David Wildman, Boston Globe, January 25, 1998