304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
Canadian born Matt Andersen is no stranger to Bluesdoodles as we’ve followed and reviewed a number of recordings and concerts that you can find via the search box. His last album, Honest Man, gained a coveted Ten Doodle Paws out of Ten from Liz…and that is praise indeed. His newest release, if you count live albums and guest appearances, Halfway Home By Morning is by my reckoning, Matt’s thirteenth release and has thirteen tracks…lucky for us, as they cover the acoustic, electric, keys and
Opening with What Would Your Mama Say, we are straight into a Three Dog Night slinky and almost sleazy piece of soul; the slide, and electric piano in the background make this a great listening experience in themselves and that’s before we appreciate the vocals of Matt and the inimitable McCrary Sisters. The highlight for me, of course, is the clever slide solo…it takes some unusual tonal routes and is very effective because of it: the outro with slide and B3 is also a delight. Free Man opens with sharp attack acoustic and electric over the top before the song develops into a slightly funky and soulful blues. The horns add to the funk, but the electric phrasing behind it all is rather special, and the B3 solo is too short but very well thought out. Something to Lose has the added spice of the lovely Amy Helm in this thoughtful and gentle duet: brushed drums and occasional piano phrases keep the tone and tempo just about right…yes, it is a sort of country with horns and isn’t the go to song here but, in the right mood, this would be more than fitting as you let the lap steel wash through your mind. The Bed I Made stays slow with acoustic, electric and Hammond providing the atmosphere for a soul song that, were it not for the acoustic guitar solo, would pass me by…but the picking is genius albeit a little incongruous here. Give Me Some Light is a ballad with Hammond and horns laying down the melody before the electric chords punctuate. Soul is again to the fore and it is the guitar flourishes that make it different, even if it doesn’t sound it at first. Better Than You Want has a great acoustic, delta slide with a sax overlay….I think Matt has pulled off this mix of delta styled blues with soul in a way that engages from the off. Thankfully we also get a slide solo that is far too short that puts the blues firmly in the soul. Gasoline is next and it is a complex, horny and slidey slice of soul with only a hint of the blues shining through in the clever slide solo. Over Me is countrified soul and blues mixed up with more raucous chorus. Once again, for me at least, the saving grace is a really entertaining but short solo. Now to that pun (or pune if you read Pratchett) for a title…always assuming that it isn’t a misprint. Help Yours Elf is pronounced correctly during the song, so I can only assume it is from a sense of mischief that the track list shows it addressing the Elven community. Anyway, more soul with tantalizing guitar to keep it interesting. Long Rider has a bit more bounce than the others as the acoustic lays the pattern for the lap steel to pick up on: it doesn’t lift it that much though and, despite its catchy melody, it is like so many songs of this ilk apart from the guitar flourishes that arrive too rarely. Take Me Back is pure soul as the electric piano and horns gently herald the vocals. Been My Last builds slowly with Hammond chords, then acoustic and lap steel and the vocals lead us to a country styled soul song and the lyrics (if you’ve been there in love) are likely to bring a tear to the eye. Quarter On The Ground wraps it all up in a sparse and enchanting way. It is a recounting of a conversation between his mother and uncle. It’s all explained over simple acoustic and, courtesy of the backing vocals, has a touch of gospel inserted into the basic structure.
Overall this is a brilliantly performed and produced work. It leans a little too much toward soul for my normal listening pleasures but each song is damned impressive in its composition and execution…so, if you like your soul served impeccably, then you will love this album.
Matt Andersen – acoustic and electric guitars, vocals
Steve Dawson – acoustic and electric guitars, pump organ, pedal steel, mandotar
Mike Farrington – bass
Jay Bellerose – drums & percussion
Chris Gestrin – Hammond organ, Wurlitzer, piano, mellotron
Amy Helm – vocals on Something to Lose
Ann, Regina & Alfreda McCrary (The McCrary Sisters) – vocals
Jim Hoke – saxophone
Charles Rose – trombone
Steve Hermann – trumpet
Horns arranged by Jim Hoke with Charles Rose and Steve Hermann
Recording Studio & engineers: Recorded bySheldon Zaharko with assistance from Preston White at Southern Ground Nashville Additional recording at The Henhouse Studio Nashville Mixing Studios and engineers: Mixed by Sheldon Zaharko at Zed Productions & Steve Dawson