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J. Ryan Beretti

Runaway Heart – 2002 (J.O.R.)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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CDs by J. Ryan Beretti

Donning a Resistol cowboy hat and clad in tight Levis, the French-born J. Ryan Beretti belts with a lot of down home American sass. Backed by the rock solid Jive Stompers, Beretti delivers a blend of funky, gospel-laced country and rockabilly replete with fiddle fills, piano glissandi and tart rhythm guitar hooks.

Although Beretti employs a Presleyian baritone to good effect, his debut's real spiritual godfather is producer Big Al Downing. A pioneer black rockabilly, Downing wrote 7 of the 12 tunes. Among them, tough country rocker "A Wildman Is Loose Tonight," the "Amos Moses" inspired "Gator Man" and urban blues of "You Are The Love Of My Life." All of which smartly fit the singer's grease-era persona. Yet, Beretti is more than just a rockabilly-wannabe. His moody versions of "Runaway Heart" and "Class of '89" drips with heartache and longing. Further, the down and dirty southern rocker "It Takes A Honky Tonk Woman To Satisfy Me" grinds with unabashed sex appeal.

Occasionally, as with his cover of the Jester's wordy "Cadillac Man," the singer's native accent leaks through. However, on balance, this catchy, engaging set will cause many American artists to wonder how this Frenchman captured so much authentic Southern feel.