San Francisco, Calif. – Broken hearts, dark days, lonely nights, and taking the high road are imprinted on classic albums from countless country music legends ranging from Hank Williams to Johnny Cash. These rough-hewn experiences define an artist well beyond the sessions in the recording studio. It pulses through their blood like a reckless freight train teetering on the edge of life and death. Songwriter Ryan Smith lays down a raw portrayal of livin’ hard and escaping one’s own self-inflicted obstacles with his band Four Year Bender’s much-anticipated sophomore studio album, Gettin’ Gone .
A San Francisco favorite and regular at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Four Year Bender is well known as an opener for national acts such as Boz Scaggs, Robert Earl Keen, and Guy Clark. With the release of Gettin’ Gone, the band’s notoriety is on a fast track to widening its audiences well beyond the West Coast. Lead singer Ryan Smith digs deep in the mud to churn out his most prolific songs yet with Josh Zee and Teal Collins of The Mother Truckers guest appearing on “Won’t Be Long” and “Comin’ Home.” Vocalist Megan Slankard performs on “Follow You Always,” and Michael Winger (Executive Director, San Francisco chapter of the GRAMMY’s) produced Gettin’ Gone.
Faced with the turbulence of alcoholism that struck Smith with a vengeance at the height of the band’s career, hitting rock bottom was the only way he’d rise to finally pull his life together and return to the stage. Two years into his sobriety, Smith cracked-open his guitar case to reflect on a decade-long fight with addiction as he embarked on his new lease on life. The result is a collection of 11 timeless songs chock-full of self-realizations and the sheer beauty that his heart still beats after years of abuse. If one lyric encapsulates Gettin’ Gone, it’s from the single “Comin’ Home”: “I got one hand on the shovel and it’s the only thing that’s holding me up.”
Four Year Bender – Gettin’ Gone – Featured Compositions
Gettin’ Gone encompasses hardships and a keen ability to overcome substantial personal hurdles, but what truly brings Smith’s narratives to life is the undeniable synergy at work with his singular band featuring Sean Leahy (electric guitar), Daria Johnson (drums, percussion), Jennifer Curiel (bass), and James Riddle (keys, accordion, vocals). Dave Zirbel (pedal steel, baritone guitar) and Ward Williams (cello) also perform on Gettin’ Gone.
Gettin’ Gone opens with “Broken Hearted,” a feel-good hole in the wall bar song testifying that Smith has such a great interest in finding a companion he throws caution to the wind, even if it means breaking his heart. “Follow You Allows” is a dynamic Southwestern-inspired rock number about enduring love. Leahy’s tremolo guitar takes center-stage with haunting background vocals by Megan Slankhard. “Comin’ Home” comes out swinging as the quintessential anthem of Gettin’ Gone. On the verge of self-destruction, Smith admits he’d like a few more hard-partyin’ days before it’s all over.
“You Would Know” and “Annalee” were scribed on the docks of his family’s New England lake house. The sentiment of summer coming and going captures visceral memories for Smith on “You Would Know.” “Annalee” pays tribute to Duane Allman’s “Little Martha” with Smith performing on his 30-year old first guitar that’d been sitting at the summer home.
“A Mile Away” is a heartfelt statement that together, lovers can rise above their burdens. Dave Zirbel bestows brilliant pedal steel on “A Mile Away” turning it into a lush country number. “Won’t Be Long” features Josh Zee and Teal Collins on a gorgeous chorus punctuated by Leahy’s guitar work. Most city dwellers can relate to the title track “Gettin’ Gone,” which takes its cue from the struggles of big city living. Packing it up and heading to the mountains sounds mighty fine to Smith as he’s fed up and ready to roam.
The gypsy-jazz influenced “Feelin’ Lucky” revolves around the unpredictability of life. Smith laments that even if you’re feeling lucky, it doesn’t hold much weight as one’s fate is ultimately not up to them. “Happy Hour Blues” is the storyboard of Smith’s countless hours spent drinking in rundown bars. Sadness can often be a safe place, and enjoying the blues can make someone have no motivation to change. Gettin’ Gone ends with “The Ride,” a mid-tempo admission that “If I know something it’s that I don’t know nothing.” When one can admit that they’ve been wrong all this time, the heart can truly open to the security of love amidst the scary world we live in.
Available on Apple Music, Spotify, Youtube, Google Play and all of the fine streaming services.