"Holler Boy – The Rise of Ryan Upchurch"
By Scott Humm
RightWingMedia.net does not usually review videos, let alone documentaries of rising music stars. However, when the Holler Boy video documentary directed by B. (Brandon) Luce, was recently posted to YouTube by none-other than Ryan Upchurch, we wanted to return the favor of a country-rap artist (and comedian) who has a 'salt-of-the-earth' ethos while entertaining us for the past several years.
Incidentally, the inclusion of this Holler Boy review does not mean that Ryan Upchurch agrees with and/or identifies with RightWingMedia.net. But we'd like to think he might he'd call us one of his "fuggins."
By the way, as we get towards the heart of the review, you should know that the director of the documentary, Luce, is a RED Digital Cinema Certified Cinematographer (not easy to master THAT primo camera), music video director (40 different artists, now via daskeet.com), owner of his own production company (alucevision.com), and is Ryan Upchurch's manager (via Blue Moon Entertainment). Essentially, the intricately edited video is a glowing, yet realistically gritty and accurate analysis of a Ryan Upchurch as a country-rap/hick-hop icon and a REAL person. As a freelance media producer, I have to give a shoutout to Luce for shooting AND editing THREE visually tantalizing music videos in five days after meeting Upchurch. But, back to our review of the video.
The presentation starts with several voiced-over quotes. "The same dude you see on the cameras is the same dude you're gonna see at the grocery store...He will be the Elvis Presley for this genre" of music. Quite possible. "He's gonna do something that hasn't been done before." Done. For anyone who has followed the singer/songwriter/rapper/comedian for any time at all, I think you'd be quick to agree.
Although it might seem obligatory in any performance review at this point in the narrative, I'm not going try to excite you with the history of 'Church' when Wikipedia does a more than adequate job (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upchurch_(musician)) and the Holler Boy documentary remarkably far transcends all possible base cliche's with awesomely engaging sound as well as incredibly imagined, photographed and rendered video. But, B. Luce knows his cameras, and the people who are his professional talent.
The documentary tells of Ryan's early years in fascinatingly glowing terms by his photogenic mother, Patty Lynn ("Do it, baby, do it!"), with that directly followed by a previously-unseen video interview from 2017. Interestingly, a fan had copied one of Church's "near viral" comedy videos ranting about the relative sleaziness of a 'gentleman's club' as it appeared on Facebook, and posted it on YouTube. The rest, as they say, is country-rap history. Next, we see Ryan and some of his buds go offroading in a minivan. Organic, reality-based comedy like that (including prank calls) get VIEWS on Vine, and later Instagram. "Then he got dabbling in the music," via Bobby Naklicki at Red Neck Nation who saw "breakout" talent in the young man who did not dance, let alone follow the beat of conventional 'drummers,' even if he used rap music as the fundamental, organizational structure of his lyrics. Then, there was Cheatham County album. "I think he wasn't expecting it to be so well-received," reflects Upchurch's mother.
Ironically, Upchurch says that he "...actually thought about quitting about [the time of the] Heart of America album." The explanation of provocative statements like this, illustrate the humanness and unexpected dimensions of almost excessive self-criticism that have become some of the visible internal hallmarks of Ryan Upchurch. "He was always so surprised that people wanted to watch," says mother Patty Lynn, who adds that, "I don't think he knew how good he was." Like at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville. "He had such great stage presence..." Then, there were occasional unanticipated financial missteps perpetuated by some of those stages that, from an strictly ethical standpoint, likely made more money of off the performances of Upchurch and his music entourage that they probably should have. "He can handle that...and he didn't get a big head."
Director Luce then uses an extended clip of the breakthrough "White Lightning" (King of Dixie album, 2017) to illustrate the evolution of Ryan Upchurch as a someone on their own reaching for performance, and the transition to a performer continuing to reach for their own. No big head here. Just visionary ideas realized. Then, music producer, Thomas Toner comes in to add to Upchurch's multi-focused music creation. Then, came some more rock, such as 2017-18's Creeker album, which according to drummer, Kidd Petersen, is surprisingly reminiscent of the group, Alice in Chains. [NOTE: Interestingly, Peterson was NOT the drummer on "Creeker."]
"These days, we have no ceiling," says Paul Elgin, Upchurch's head of sound. "The first thing this mother**** does when he gets on stage...he brings that **** up, and pulls a rebel flag out of his pocket...singing, yelling." "My boy's gonna keep going to the top," echoes friend and confidant, Robert Deardorff.
"I'm looking at this kid on the stage and he's on these big jumbo-trons....I couldn't fathom that this person that I'd met so long ago on this journey that he was so meant to do it," muses Naklicki.
"I knew that whatever he did, he would do it to the fullest intent...[but]...I didn't know it was going to be this big," exclaims Patty Lynn Upchurch. "There's a lot more that can come."
This is all a story needing to be told...and sung.
As a special event, Holler Boys was first presented for viewing on computers and mobile device on August 14Aug 14-20, 2020 by Tixr.com. Since then, on January 24th, Ryan Upchurch graciously made the entire video available via his YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgOSgZdBl0E), although for ease of maximum viewing pleasure, I would recommend you buy your own DVD of the video (hollerboymovie.com), although if you have a Blue-Ray player, you might want to hold on for THAT release!
NOTE: Scott Humm has a BS in broadcast journalism and production from a major southwestern university. He has been a commercially published writer specializing in entertainment, news, politics and technology.