I saw him recently here in Los Angeles, at the Henry Fonda Theater and he also had a very good night. This band seems to be the best he's played with yet, outside of Whiskeytown - of course.
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The new record has grown on me after several listens but it is not his best work. If I had to put money on the table, I would venture and say Ryan is smoking quite a bit of the good stuff on a daily basis. This might explain the "Dead" feel and influence depending on what he has been listening to.
When he came out on stage, I almost did not recognize him. Scraggly thick beard, long hair and a flannel shirt with his large glasses. Regardless, I think he is one of the brightess talents in rock for quite a while.
Saw the DC show and thought it was pretty average(having seen him twice before at the 9:30 club). His appearance was a mess, he rambled even more then normal and I thought the actual musical performance was pretty flat.
I am listening to new record now and think that the songs themselves may be part of the problem. The record is perfectly pleasant, but not memorable.