Written by Jessica Klausing
Dan Layus has reinvented himself as a singer-songwriter. The former Augustana frontman has opted for minimal production. His songs feature the piano with the fine styling of fiddle, pedal steel, and guitar. Plenty of times a musician goes solo but still sounds like their preceding band. Not Layus. His music is a blend of traditional Country and Americana with a fragile voice that calls out to the broken hearted. West Hollywood’s Troubadour was the venue to hold so much heart on Thursday night.
Nashville singer-songwriter Ryan Beaver opened the set. Beaver took stage meekly with his acoustic guitar in tow. Many were completely oblivious to him as the audience chatter reigned on. Opening with the painfully beautiful “Rum and Roses,” Beaver instantly alerted the room to his bell-pure vocals and superb storytelling.
Give this man a guitar and he’ll break your heart! Beaver has this special way of capturing reality but making it easily relatable. In the gritty tuned “Dark” he sings of a troubled man that just wants to be left alone. Following the theme of melancholy came the country twang on “Vegas.” A bittersweet song about what happens in Vegas does not exactly stay in Vegas. Standout track of the night was the hauntingly bluesy “When This World Ends,” a song about being in love during the zombie apocalypse.
Ryan Beaver is a must see if he plays near you. His songs are compelling with such endearing vocals. The music teeters somewhere gracefully between Americana and the Blues. He’s an upcoming artist with plenty of potential for sure.
The Troubadour erupted in cheers as Dan Layus modestly took the stage with Kristin Weber (violin, fiddle) and Jay Barclay (guitar, pedal steel).
The trio dove right into “Enough For You,” a track of off Layus’s debut solo album. His live performance was as stripped down as his album. Layus proves that a delicate voice and a little soulful acoustic guitar is all he needs to fill the space.
Layus bears his soul with such fragile yet earnest vocals. His shaky vibrato on “Sweet and Low” gave the song an emotional wave of nostalgia. You could feel the ache in his voice during the line “No one’s giving up quite yet, we’ve got too much to lose.” Just a strum of Weber’s fiddle was all it took to tug at the heartstrings.
The mood picked up for the pedal steel induced “Dangerous Things,” the title track off of Layus’s album. He followed with the romantic mid-tempo “Fell in Love On a Beach.” This was probably the most optimistic song in the entire setlist.
Things shifted back to dark as Layus traded in his guitar for the keyboard for “Let Me Lose You” “Four Rings,” and “The Nightbird.” He picked the guitar back up again for another Augustana cover, “Must Be Love.”
The set was well balanced between solo and Augustana covers. A few of these covers included: the gritty “Ash and Ember,” “Climb,” and a beautiful ballad of “Steal Your Heart.” I was a bit disappointed that the group’s successor “Boston” did not make it into the set. This disappointment was immediately replaced with an electric version of “I Really Think So.”
Layus and his bandmates really cranked it up with this one! So much for a quiet evening; Barclay and Layus tore away at the guitars which launched Weber into an intense fiddle solo. This hard rockin’ tune had everyone up on their feet.
“Call Me When You Get There” was the definite highlight of the set. All of Layus’s solo work is touching but this one really hits home. The song focuses on the concern for a person’s well-being whether it’s wanted or not. A tsunami of tender chords and love washed over the very silent room. The band closed out the night with “Twenty Years,” in honor of a recently departed friend.
Dan Layus’s music is chalk full of poetry-in-motion lyrics backed with gorgeous melodies. If you can’t see him live then go out and buy his album and play it in headphones with your eyes closed. Either way, the music is a mesmerizing experience! Whether you’re a Country fan or not--Dan Layus will steal your heart away.
Enough For You
Sweet and Low (Augustana cover)
I Still Aint Over You (Augustana cover)
You Can Have Mine
Only Gets Darker
Fell in Love On a Beach
Let Me Lose You
Must Be Love (Augustana cover)
Climb (Augustana cover)
Call Me When You Get There
Ash and Ember (Augustana cover)
I Really Think So (Augustana cover)
Steal Your Heart (Augustana cover)
Twenty Years (Augustana cover)