When Ryan Culwell released his critically acclaimed 2015 album Flatlands, Rolling Stone hailed the collection as both “gorgeous and bleak,” and the intervening years of the Texas native’s life could be described in similarly contradictory terms. Culwell has touched the top and scraped the bottom, known true joy and faced pure sorrow, been blessed with luck and cursed by tough breaks. He welcomed daughters number three and four into the world, only to nearly lose his life working odd jobs just to make ends meet. It’s been a beautiful, brutal time for Culwell, one that he’s woven into the fabric of his most stunning songs yet with The Last American, his third album and debut release for Missing Piece Records. Recorded in his adopted hometown of Nashville, the collection showcases Culwell at his finest, crafting poignant portraits of ordinary folks just trying to get by, men and women doing their best to make it through the day with dignity and self-respect in these trying times.
“When I grew up and started traveling around the country, I began seeing certain truths in people’s struggles and pains, and I realized that the America that was given to me wasn’t what I’d been told it was,” Culwell reflects. “The patriotism that my father passed down didn’t have anywhere to land because that America simply didn’t exist. I’m a father myself now, and I think part of the inspiration for these songs was to try and give my children the tools to love this country for what it is and what it can be, to provide them with an accurate picture of where they are and what it means to love and hope and have empathy.”
“Working hard on the craft of songwriting is important, but I can’t say I’ve ever earned a good song. They all come as gifts. Writing is like trying to fit the key in the door after a night of heavy drinking. Sometimes you get lucky and you get to go sleep in your bed, but sometimes you end up sleeping on the porch. Eventually you learn little tricks like leaving the porch light on when you leave the house, or patience.”
– Ryan Culwell