OK, hands up. Although Canadian singer-songwriter Matt Andersen has been making music for 14 years, released eight albums, the most recent of which picked up a Juno nomination, I have to confess this is the first time I’ve heard of him. I suspect this largely due to the fact that he’s blues musician, one with several awards to his belt, and it’s not a genre with which I have a particular affinity.
This, however, isn’t really a blues album, more country soul. Soul is certainly the background from many of those involved, the producer being ‘Commissioner’ Gordon Williams, whose credits include Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse, Lauryn Hill and Santana, while the musicians have variously worked with Toots and the Maytals, Mary J Blige and The Wailers.
Indeed there’s a definite reggae rhythm to the mellow opening number, Break Away, which sports a country and Morrison-like soul groove over which Andersen’s warm vocals, float. There’s also a gentle soul gospel feel to the following cut, The Gift, a number that at times suggests a softer Joe Cocker while the title track Honest Man is a syncopated funky Memphis shuffle inspired by an American political cartoon. Politics also inform the infectious rhythms of Let’s Get Back, an organ and horns backed lament (with a dash of banjo) about how his country’s changed for the worse, and the handclappy, old-school R&B of Who Are You Listening To?, written as a pre-election rallying cry.
He balances political comment with personal confession, the spare piano ballad I’m Giving In, co-penned with Jamie Hartman, the bubbling Memphis groove of the mid-tempo All The Way, featuring some understated wah wah guitar, and the Otis-like slow sway of the superb Last Surrender stem from fully committing to a relationship.
The album ends with One Good Song, a woodwind-coloured slow waltz co-penned (as is the bucolic folk-country Quiet Company) with Donovan Woods about the songwriter’s holy grail. On the evidence here, Andersen has a store-cupboard full of them.
Review by: Mike Davies
Out Now via True North Records
Order via Amazon