Review: Ryan Chrys & The Rough Cuts' 'Shovel Full of Coal'

By: Benjamin Jewell

On March 28th, Ryan Chrys & The Rough Cuts will independently release their newest outlaw country album Shovel Full of Coal. Self-produced and recorded at Denver’s The Keep, in collaboration with Jeff Kanan, the album is a mix of outlaw storytelling, sing-along country anthems, and nostalgia spun up in an eclectic musical cyclone that is uniquely singer/songwriter Ryan Chrys.

Ryan Chrys & The Rough Cuts. 

Ryan Chrys & The Rough Cuts. 

If you’re not a fan of the frequently overproduced, shallow themes of today’s pop country, then this record is for you. After thirty-four minutes and ten songs, you’ll feel like you’ve driven cross-country with Ryan in his beat up old Chevrolet. While not entirely devoid of country cliché, tall tales, or radio friendly get-stuck-in-your-head melodies (“Country Music Soundtrack”), the album is surprisingly personal when you add introspective songwriting and an earful of genre influences too long to mention. Via songs like “Funkified" and "Modern Outlaw Country," this is a self-described, “Southern-fried funkified backbeat rhythm and blues/modern outlaw country” album, which translates to pipe it through your helmet on your next two-wheel road trip, or blast it from the speakers teetering on the back of your tailgate at your next kegger bonfire. Either way, there will be chuckles at lyrics like, “...I can’t help but to think of you/Every time I pick up my bow,” and lots of ass-shaking to guitar riffs that would be at home on a James Brown album.

The band, featuring Ryan Chrys on guitar/vocals, Bradley Weaver on steel guitar/vocals, Michael Jochum on drums, and Susan Phelan on bass, is clearly capable of both wailing and jamming for ten minutes a track, yet are adequately restrained. I found myself wanting more instrumentals and longer solos, which likely in a live scenario would be gladly obliged.

Watch the music video for "Modern Outlaw Country":

If Ryan Chrys & The Rough Cuts set out to create a no-apologies ode to the country outlaws of the past, as suggested in “Modern Outlaw Country” (#8 on Westword’s The 15 Best Colorado Music Videos of 2017), I would call this a success. If you are an avid country music fan, this should make your download list. If you are a once in awhile country listener, like me, it is definitely not the country you skip over on your radio.

After you download the album on iTunes, be sure to catch the band live on tour and see why they earned “Entertainer Of The Year, 2016” by the Colorado Country Music Hall of Fame. For more information and updates on the tour, visit their website.

West Coast Tour Dates

  • 4/6/17 - The Cowboy Saloon and Dancehall - Laramie, WY
  • 4/7/17 - Murray Bar - Livingston, WY
  • 4/8/17 - Sunrise Saloon - Missoula, MT
  • 4/9/17 - Philipsburg Brewery - Philipsburg, MT
  • 4/12/17 - John’s Alley - Moscow, ID
  • 4/13/17 - Bull Head Saloon - Cheney, WA
  • 4/14/17 - The Sports Center - Yakima, MT
  • 4/15/17 - Slim’s Last Chance - Seattle, WA
  • 4/16/17 - The Valley - Tacoma, WA
  • 4/18/17 - White Eagle Saloon - Portland, OR
  • 4/19/17 - The Space Concert Club - Salem, OR
  • 4/20/17 - Old Nick’s Pub - Eugene, OR
  • 4/21/17 - Talent Club - Talent, OR
  • 4/22/17 - The Haul - Grants Pass, OR
  • 4/23/17 - St. James Infirmary - Reno, NV
  • 4/25/17 - Frog and Peach Pub - San Luis Obispo, CA
  • 4/26/17 - Boardner’s -  Hollywood, CA
  • 4/27/17 - The Pike - Long Beach, CA
  • 4/28/17 - The Holding Company - San Diego, CA
  • 4/29/17 - Mickie Finnz - Las Vegas, NV


All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.