Ryan Shupe

Dream Big

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Salt Lake City stalwart Ryan Shupe addresses the question of just what sort of musicians he and his group, the Rubberband, are in "Banjo Boy," the opening track of his major-label debut, Dream Big. He imagines himself a pop star with lots of fans and appearances on the major network talk shows, but admits, "The only problem is, I play the banjo." And there it is. Ryan Shupe & the Rubberband are a sort of bluegrass group that went left, or right, or zigzagged a lot through different musical styles, creating a pleasant hybrid in the process. Again in "Banjo Boy," frontman Shupe boastfully describes himself as "a cross between Béla Fleck and Eddie Vedder, but better." That may not be true, but the band, which demonstrates its bluegrass chops on the instrumental "Ambush," also turns out a catchy pop/rock number in "Even Superman," a potential country hit in "Would You Love Me," a reggae exercise in "Rain Falls Down," and a carnival-worthy Latin percussion and horn arrangement in "Oh How I Miss You." It can all be considered part of the album's theme, as expressed in the title ballad, "When you dream, dream big." Shupe and his group are nothing if not ambitious, and they have a fearless sense of trying unexpected musical combinations. Well beyond bluegrass and even newgrass, this is music Capitol Nashville is marketing to the country audience for lack of a better niche, but it has the potential to appeal to a wider constituency.

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