Listening to I’m Not Looking Down Anymore, the opening track on Co.Down singer-songwriter Matt McGinn’s sophomore album Latter Day Sinner, it’s not difficult to see why his easy-rolling folksy melodies and warmly melancholic woodsmoke vocals have drawn comparisons to Glen Hansard, but there’s also definite hints of Paul Simon in there too.
McGinn has been a fixture on the Irish music scene for a while and is, possibly, best known for his association with Ben Glover, having regularly worked with him both on disc and on tour as well as the pair releasing the live Crossroads Sessions EP last year. In turn, McGinn’s enlisted an impressive line-up of Northern Ireland musicians for his own album, among them guitarist Colm McClean and pianist John McCullough. On the opener, he’s also joined on vocals by rising Nashville star Madeleine Slate, who co-wrote both that track and two others, World of Time, with just McGinn’s vocals and sparse acoustic guitar, and the sad, slow swaying What Happens which features soulful organ, strings and harmony vocals by Rachel Coulter from the Farriers.
Ballads of love and loss are the mainstay of the album, achingly etched in such numbers as the violin and viola complemented Lie, the ultimately hopeful Darkest Before The Day which comes swathed in strings courtesy of the Arco Quartet, and the semi-spoken You Have Your Dreams, Paul Hamilton’s brushed drums and McClean on saw guitar underscoring the moving lyrics about those who have drowned in lost hopes.
It’s not all such downbeat stuff, however. The title track itself is an uptempo rockabilly boogie celebrating being something of a hound dog, served with ringing electric guitar, swirling organ and handclaps while George’s Way swells to climactic tumult of slide guitar and piano distortion. And, though they may be ballads, The Lucky One, with Conor McCreanor on double bass, and We’re Fine, featuring Mickey Raphael’s harmonica, both evocative of Paul Simon, are, respectively, about redeeming love and a sense of reassurance. The album ends on a warm glow, the Arco Quartet returning for It’s Just Your Way, bringing the album from the shadows of uncertainty and despair to the assurance of love.
McGinn shares his name with the late Glaswegian who was one of Scotland’s greatest songwriters and a leading figure in the British folk music revival of the late fifties. With albums like this, he could easily achieve the same reverence.
Review by: Mike Davies