Ryan Clair’s debut boldly goes where no worship leader has gone before. The box that worship music has been held in for decades is demolished by this 10-song album appropriately titled Less traveled Road.
Knowing Ryan, I have found him to be humble yet a lion of a worship leader. Serving as the Senior Worship Pastor at The Journey North Church, in Baxter, Minnesota; he and his wife Mary along with their five children have made Baxter their home. Raised in a small mountain community in Southern California, those roots along with Minnesota’s blue-collar culture are reflected with genuine authenticity in the most genuinely profound album I have heard since Rich Mullins’s The Jesus Record.
Honoring God with every line, Ryan’s raw, gritty nontraditional masterpiece left me speechless on first listen. With no shortage of “congregationally friendly” songs, worship leaders will easily be able to find additions to their set lists from Ryan’s Debut. That said, THIS IS NOT your typical worship album!
As I sit here grasping at words to describe Ryan’s sound, I find that there are none other than “genuine.” While his rich baritone voice and tone could pass easily as Neil Diamond and at times Johnny Cash; stylistically he brings back memories of the Allman Brothers and The Outlaws of Country (Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Chris Kristofferson, & Merle Haggard.) That is not to say this a “Country” Worship album. This is a sound truly all its own.
The album starts off appropriately with “Move Over Devil.” I’ll just say John Fogerty, and Credence Clearwater Revival just got baptized in the Holy Ghost. The song begins with the sound of a steam locomotive whistle followed by a percussion line that drives throughout the song like a train. The bottom line is this song flat out rocks, and its message needs to be heralded in churches. “I won’t falter, I won’t fail – ain’t no Devil gonna drag me down – I won’t falter, I won’t fail – ain’t no Devil gonna take my crown!” Amen!
“Throw Me a Line” is a sure favorite with its raw and honest modern lyric reminiscent of David’s Psalms during his fleeing from Saul and his ensuing trials.
Ahhhhhh! I could hear the title song 1,000 times, and it would never get old. By far, my favorite song on the project. This song is Ryan’s sweet spot without question. Lyrically uncompromising and hope-filled, “Less Travelled Road” paints a beautiful picture of a home that our Father prepares for us as we press onward down this daunting path of life. The lone steel guitar projects itself as the pilgrim on his journey. Simply amazing!
“Hope” has the feel of a song sung around a campfire but its chorus could just as easily fit sung in church acapella or joined by the worship team.
“See How Great A Flame Aspires” is most likely the most daring rendition of Charles Wesley’s classic hymn ever recorded. Ryan’s voice taunts the devil to a showdown won by Christ 2000 years ago.
Having personally led “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me (The Valley)” with its blues influenced stylings; I dare find a worship leader that can’t find a place in a service where the heart of a true relationship with Jesus is echoed.
Featuring Brothers McClurg, “Come to the Altar and Pray” is a bold call to the weak, the addicted, and the travelers of life to all come to Him and lay their burdens down at His feet.
“Great is the Lord” is Ryan’s own and the simple elegance of its analog production usher in the heartbeat of long gone Gospel now revived.
“Hope For the Weary Soul” is a sonic anthem of reliance and dependence on God.
The album concludes with “A Brothers Battle” – a real story of the raging wars within a troubled heart and the prayer from his Brother over Him.
In short, Less Traveled Road again sits, original and daring, blazing a trail ahead and beyond what is conventional in modern worship. I am confident you will find a treasure of new sounds and songs if you are willing to go down this less traveled road. This album is a 10 out of 10! Very well done, Ryan!