True North [Release date 14.04.14]
Produced by former Blasters sax player and Los Lobos producer Steve Berlin, ‘Weightless’ puts the emphasis squarely on songs, catchy hooks and a subtle sonic landscape that nestles Matt Andersen’s emotive baritone vocal.
Released by Canadian Roots label True North Records, ‘Weightless’ has radio friendly, crossover potential. He’s collaborated with Joel Plaskett, David Myles, Ryan Hupman, Dave Gunning, Thom Swift, Suzie Vinnick, Keith Mullins and Tom Wilson to bring musical variety and lyrical diversity to a slow burning album that has enough depth and heartfelt narratives to withstand repeated scrutiny.
There’s a mix of folk, soul, blues -Americana if you will – and a surprisingly poppy element, as evidenced by ‘Alberta Gold’, an accessible song with a self-help political message.
‘Weightless’ may not be a career defining album, but you can feel it’s a notable step-up in broadening Matt’s appeal. That said, his best moments come on his most reflective songs that carry an emotional charge. Both aspects come together on ‘My Last Day’, his unflinching rumination on mortality. It’s a song with a big melodic sweep and a booming hook, while his closing extended note into the fade sets an emotionally charged standard for the rest of the album.
The closing ‘What Will You Leave’ is a thematic sister track, but with a sting in the tail: ‘Have your debt’s all been squared away, would your friends have nice things to say, what will you leave here when you go?’
The opening ‘I Lost My Way’ emerges from a fog of echo reverb, into an organ stabbed groove with a soulful Cocker meets Cray influenced vocal. A sudden horn line fills the bridge and a synth sounding guitar slashes through the melody line. The musical variety acts as a barometer for the album as a whole, if not the individual tracks themselves.
Matt’s baritone guides us through the thickets of co-penned narratives that shift from the first person to the communal. Songs like ‘The Fight’, which is ostensibly about Canadian eco concerns, could just as easily be interpreted as a call to action elsewhere. ‘Alberta Gold’ carries a similar sentiment, in this case the subject is the Canadian oil rush, played out over an uplifting shuffle beat melody, with a sing-along chorus.
‘City Of Dreams’ is a similar blue collar account of bankrupt Detroit. In sharp contrast to the subject matter, Matt opts for an up tempo, inspirational feel, born of another shuffle beat rhythm, a nifty guitar break and shimmering tones, all glued together by a peerless rhythm section on the best produced track on the album.
‘Weightless’ is an album of full heartfelt songs, thoughtful stories, memorable hooks and a subtle production, all presided over by Matt’s emotive phrasing. He effortlessly shifts from the aching Americanaof ‘So Easy’ – Paul Rigby’s gently voiced pedal steel subtly wraps its way round Matt’s 1st person lyrical resolution – to the slow evolving blues of ‘Between the Lines’. The shimmering slide and resonant drums also carry a lyric that fits the singer-songwriter himself: ‘He’ll speak to your body, and sing to your mind’.
Matt Andersen takes us on a fulfilling musical journey, as he pulls together a dozen songs in which every word and note counts, and feel and meaning is everything. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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