Matthews Southern Comfort
Like A Radio
Out of the blue and with a band of Dutch musicians whose grip on this artist’s feel for roots and folk music and vintage and modern Americana is eminently displayed here…a new album from Iain Matthews and the new Matthews Southern Comfort!
Fifteen new recordings, sounding fresh and well-realised. The group members are Bart Jan Baartmans on various guitars and related, keyboard man Bart De Win and Eric de Vries on acoustic guitar and singing. On the sleeve their portraits suggest they could play an artful pack of Amsterdam jewel thieves film if this doesn’t work out..just kidding, gentlemen…there’s a real folk craftsmen look about them.
Opening cut The Thought Police sets a beautiful, electric piano vibe and a clear and seasoned Matthews vocal tells the tale, taking a swipe at the Unseen Enemy. The recording quality is far beyond terrific. The light percussion works well. Iain’s vocal warmth is intact and his authority needs no histrionics. A cool song that doesn’t preach. Next up is the reflective Like A Radio, set to a healthy tread with a hint of sardonic desperation, a song of neat construction. If you ever liked the Fairport Convention album What We Did On Our Holidays, chances are that you will enjoy this music. It wasn’t long before FC concentrated on English and Scottish folk and traditional material and Matthews formed MSC, of course.
The Age Of Isolation takes a steady sway as its core and care has been taken on the vocal arrangement. It’s a winsome piece, not a huge distance from Al Stewart, I would suggest. What a great pairing MSC and Stewart would make for a tour! Bits & Pieces is a tad more strident in its country rock feel, attaining a true small-town atmosphere, nice mandolin threaded into the band sound. Matthews doesn’t adopt a faux-Yank voice, a huge plus for this listener. The lead guitar break is deftly handled.
Steve Gillette and Tom Campbell wrote the song Darcy Farrow and it’s delicately handled here. You almost expect Linda Ronstadt to start singing ! The folkier side of what’s attempted on this collection. On to Crystals On The Glass is maybe my favourite song in the programme, a tight conspiratorial groove carrying the song along its insistent path. There’s a distant echo of early Byrds, Crosby in particular.
Been Down So Long has an almost waves-on-the-shore tempo and is maybe a companion piece to Neil Young’s Cortez The Killer. They need to stretch this one out in performance, let it build imho. Jive Pajamas is a beguiling, shifting-tempo number with a fine lyric, sounding like a future live favourite with its jazzy mood. Phoenix Rising is a dusk lament with resonator slide figures and concerns a lost artist, I think. It’s gracefully handled and a gorgeous melody. To Love is by Carole King and that tremelo’d guitar shouts Topanga Canyon, beat to suit and a tinge of Everly Bros to boot. An obvious single, lads? Next is Right As Rain set to a desolate lope and the best vocal here perhaps, but for the vocal tone this could be a John Prine tune. A total success and you need a band this good to pull such songs off. Chasing Rainbows has a Beatlesy-Eastern intro and a strong melody, lyric about sorting dreams from reality, for future direction. The mix of electric piano and acoustic strumming casts quite a spell and words to match.
On to the bonus cuts now – Something In The Way She Moves is the James Taylor tune taken at an easy pace, A Heartless Night is a light-touch lilt of a song and a good illustration of Matthews approach to telling a story. Finally Your Cake And Eat It Rides us out on a slow tune with excellent lead guitar adornment.
Maybe a couple of faster songs might have balanced this set up a little, but this album is a celebration on songcraft, packed with highlights and rich melodic skill. Chasing Rainbows is really getting into my system….
(Thanks go to Stevie at Iconic)
Images Supplied by Artist Website
Matthews Southern Comfort’s new album ‘Like A Radio’ is out now on MIG Music.
For tour dates and more information visit Iain Matthews official website here: http://bit.ly/2sQUnfk