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Shawn Ryan: Blue Skies

Among the overtly gay, mildly self-deprecating, campy cabaret lads, San Franciscan Shawn Ryan (who, fairly recently, abandoned the City by the Bay for West Hollywood) can certainly hold his own. He’s got a pleasant enough voice that suggest a less seasoned Michael Feinstein, solid taste in standards, a winning way with the sort of vaguely saucy patter (judging by two live tracks included here) that is a cabaret performer’s bread and butter and, an invaluable asset for any artist, a keen appreciation for his core audience.

Specialized material, like “My Simple Christmas Wish” (a sort of transgendered “Santa Baby”) and a battle-of-the-sexual-orientations treatment of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in the company of Kim Nalley, is cute the first time through but becomes a bit cloying on repeat spins. Also, Ryan occasionally finds it hard to resist the sort of hammy theatricality that, in decades past, hampered many an otherwise fine Sammy Davis Jr. recording. But when he settles in for simple, polished readings of “Here’s That Rainy Day,” “The Very Thought of You” and such, the heart and soul of a solid pop stylist is clearly evident.

Originally Published