Matt Harlan tours The Netherlands in the coming ten days. Here you find out where. Hence we do a re-run of our review of this spring. Below is a link were you can order the album. It's best of course to support Matt directly and buy the album from him at a gig.
Houston based singer-songwriter treats us to a new album. It's not the
first time he features on WoNo Magazine's blog. You can read our
interview with him here. What struck me most, is the way he translates his observations into lyrics and songs.
Bow and be simple is Harlan's second album and every time I've played it
in the past days, I liked it a little bit more. Don't expect anything
fancy or flash, but some good and honest song-writing, as he sings in
'Simple song: "I tried to write a simple song. Something closer to the
truth" and comes up with an almost haunting vibe accompanying this
truth. So whether he managed to write a simple song, sort of hangs in
the balance. What he did manage, is to hide any traces of sophomore
album anxiety. If he ever had any that is.
Bow and be simple is a somewhat different album then I'd expected on the
basis of his first album 'Tips & compliments' and his solo
performance with those songs. T &C is, as I remember it, an album
with more or less one vibe and can be characterized as steeped somewhat
more into country and observing from the lyrical point of view. On his
new album Harlan flexes his muscles, but in a very slow but deliberate
way, while he plays around a bit with the mood of his listeners as well.
Harlan takes us through several styles of Americana. From slow songs
with fine electric guitar playing, that give the songs a somewhat
haunted vibe like 'Simple song', to up tempo country songs like 'The
easy road', next to pure singer songwriter outings like 'Baby blue'. The
differences clearly lend the album character and a bite as soon as the
dark guitar sounds kicks in, which sound is not totally unlike the sound
of Madrugada's guitar player, the late Robert Buras.
The album was made with the Danish musicians named The Sentimentals.
They deserve the complement that they clearly bring out the best in Matt
Harlan. The arrangement of the songs give them all a distinct
individual charm and quality, while the harmonising vocals by Rachel
Jones definitively give several songs another extra lift. Let's hope
that it's possible for Matt Harlan to take this band on the road with
him, during his fall European tour of 2012.
As to references, I hear some Adam Carroll simmering through in some of
the more up beat songs and Grayson Capps in the electrified slow ones.
(Harlan even looks like a younger version of Capps on the front of the
booklet.) Bob Dylan in his 'Nashville skyline' period in 'The easy
road'. His voice has faint traces of the young Stephen Stills. Mostly
though, he is his own man with an album full of stories set to a great
variety of music. Should there be any self doubt towards his music, when
he sings "Is anybody out there? Do you hear my song"? in 'Baby blue',
I'd like to take the opportunity to answer him right now. Bow and be
simple is a step forward in Matt's song writing and holds promises for
what's to come. This line tells all : "And there's a thimbleful of
stories, that I can't quite talk about", from 'Darker shade of grey'. So
bow and be patient.
You can order the album here