Album Review: Black Bambi – Black Bambi

Black Bambi

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

Album Review of Black Bambi: Black Bambi (20th Century Music)

There’s so much good, throwback-styled, ’80s melodic hard rock out there these days, and this self-titled disc from Black Bambi ranks among the best of this past year’s batch. Or, at least, it would. But it was recorded nearly 30 years ago, scheduled for a 1990 release before all-too-common record-company issues landed it on the sideline. Punch, pop, big vocals, power guitars, and monster hooks. It’s a fun, well-crafted adrenaline rush from a cadre of talented compadres. I don’t typically review re-issues – though others who write for me sometimes choose to – but as with every rule, this one is made to be broken, and is it really a reissue if it was never released in the first place? I’d’ve probably given this release five stars if I had reviewed it back in 1990, when I was wordsmithing for hard rock and heavy metal magazine Tough Tracks. (Our star rankings went up to five, didn’t they, Lisa?) This many years later, I’m equally impressed, and with the resurgence in recordings of melodic hard rock (also referred to by the term “hair metal,” which I dismiss because it doesn’t describe the music) from bands and musicians active in its heyday as well as young, new artists, this seems like an ideal time to release – and to review – Black Bambi’s newly released old recording. (Technically, this album was also released in 2001, so this really a second release, but I missed the 2001 version, so it’s new to me and, in all probability, to you, too.)

Black Bambi - Black Bambi

image courtesy of Head First Entertainment

I’d place the band on the heaviness scale around where Tyketto was back in that band’s heyday but not as heavy as Tyketto is now or as L.A. Guns typically is. Perhaps a bit crunchier than bands like Sweet F.A. were back in the early ’90s, though.

“Mary’s Birthday” kicks things off strong, showing the guitars and drums, riffing a little, then delivering in memorably catchy melodic hard rock fashion, plowing somewhat straight ahead but with a little Extreme-reminiscent funk and lightly-instrumented bridges. This is a great selection for a first track, kicking the album off strong.

It’s followed by another of my favorite tracks, “In the Meantime,” pulsing guitars and drums joined by a thin Skid Row-esque ’80s vocal line as the song plods forcefully forward, providing ample contrasting backdrop to the song’s harmonious bridges and guitar solo noodling.

“Crucified” adds a little blues wail to the mix, spicing things up without obscuring the song’s ’80s hair metal roots. “Seven Miles to Rome” stands out for its heavy, plodding power; it’s a force of nature that grows on the listener more with each playing, sparsely-instrumented – almost the exact opposite of wall-of-sound – emphasizing the tune’s heavy axework.

Black Bambi

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

“Down” is a pulsing rocker that blends a street cred-building heaviness with Ratt-like vocals and a hypnotically catchy repeating rhythm; “The Celebration” follows that with a little funky vibe driving its hooky hard rock rhythm and wails.

My favorite song on the disc is probably “99 1/2,” whose verses recalled Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health” a bit the first few times I listened to it, but by now I have trouble hearing anything in it but Black Bambi.

In all, this is a terrific throwback disc. It’s a shame it wasn’t released when it was recorded – an all-too-frequent tale of music careers getting delayed and derailed by record label politics – but for those of us who loved that musical era, Black Bambi’s eponymous album is a welcome gift, a new discovery via an unearthed time capsule.

Album Review: The Black Butterflies – Luisa

The Black Butterflies

photo by Vladimir Radojicic; photo courtesy of Mercedes Figueras

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of The Black Butterflies featuring Gato Barbieri: Luisa

Mercedes Figueras is an Argentinean saxophonist who has released a series of independent albums as leader of New York-based jazz outfit The Black Butterflies. Much of their music is of a contemporary post-bop and Afro-Cuban nature, rich with lush percussion and rhythmic accents. On their latest installment, this was an exceptionally momentous release because it documented the last recorded work by the late legendary tenor sax great Gato Barbieri.

The Black Butterflies - Luisa

album cover art by Ima Montoya; image courtesy of Mercedes Figueras

The Black Butterflies consist of Figueras on soprano, alto, tenor sax and vocals; Tony Larokko on soprano and tenor sax and percussion; Fred Berryhill on djembe and percussion; Bopa “King” Carre on bongos and percussion; Nick Gianni on upright bass and flute; Rick Bottari, piano; Kenny Wollesen on drums; and Karl Berger on vibraphone and melodica.

The album begins with a mash-up of the traditional black folk song “Hambone” — with vocals by Larokko that flow nicely with the introductory rhythms — leading into the Astor Piazzolla piece “Adios Nonino.” This is a nice and easy samba that features Figueras playing a rather whimsical and snaky kind of melody, with its overarching intervals and valiant sonic leaps. Berge adds some really nice touches here on vibes.

The Black Butterflies

photo by Vladimir Radojicic; photo courtesy of Mercedes Figueras

Figueras’ original “Gato’s Hat” is a sweet dedication to the Latin saxman himself. It’s kind of a simple-sounding folk melody that the leader uses as a vehicle to engage Barbieri in a friendly horn duel. It’s a light and spirited piece uplifted by animated percussion that weaves in and out.

Title track “Luisa” is a lullaby between mother and daughter. Figueras’ words are poetic as she offers advice to her young daughter via words of wisdom. She sings these lyrics in whispery and eerily hushed tones that are gentle and comforting. The music shifts accordingly from ethereal and ambient to more of a 4/4 swing feel. It’s a nice conceptual piece that utilizes, in particular, the strengths of the bass and drums.

The Black Butterflies

photo by Vladimir Radojicic; photo courtesy of Mercedes Figueras

Another Figueras original, “Brother Nacho, Sister Lola,” is based on a lean and simple samba vamp featuring dense percussion and saxophonic cross-talk between Barbieri and the leader. Their playing is intense only to be offset by the steady hand of Berger on accompaniment and solos.

The mood shifts between major and minor modes on Ramon Sixto Rios’ “Merceditas.” Again, Barbieri comes to the fore here with some shimmering tenor work supported by Berger on melodica.

McCoy Tyner’s “Love Samba” fits in nicely with the Latin-tinged program here and shines a spotlight on Larokko’s soprano sax exchanges with Figueras’ horns. The set up is tight and effective, with Berger on the first vibes solo, Bottari mimicking Tyner’s percussive comping style to a tee, and then the horns intersecting with harmony and dissonance in a somewhat avant garde manner. It’s a John Coltrane meets Pharaoh Sanders sounding kind of affair and is a real highlight of the album.

The Black Butterflies

photo by Vladimir Radojicic; photo courtesy of Mercedes Figueras

The Black Butterflies conclude with the Carlos Gardel/Alfredo Le Pera-penned “Por Una Cabeza” as the group introduces a tango to the mix. Figueras displays some of her Barbieri tendencies as she emphasizes a full-toned gruffness in her sound that brings a fiery passion to the overall track. The leader rides the waves of emotion on this one as the dynamics and tempo shift in poetic and danceable formation.

This 2015 recording, released in 2017, is not only significant for being the last recorded project Barbieri did, but it reconnected him with his former bandmate from the mid-‘60s era Don Cherry Quartet, Karl Berger. It appears to have been an emotional and fulfilling experience for them all and, hopefully, for you the listener. Enjoy!

Album Review: Hristo Vitchev Quartet – Of Light and Shadows

Hristo Vitchev

photo courtesy of Hristo Vitchev

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Hristo Vitchev Quartet: Of Light and Shadows (First Orbit Sounds Music)

Hristo Vitchev is a Bulgarian-born and San Francisco-based contemporary jazz guitarist with a series of albums out on indie label First Orbit Sounds. His latest release, Of Light and Shadows, continues a string of progressive impressionistic albums he’s recorded with his steady unit of Jasnam Daya Singh on piano, Dan Robbins on bass and Mike Shannon on drums. It may be a cliché to say that an artist’s latest release is their best, but it takes a while to truly gel and operate on all cylinders as a group. And, with this latest endeavor, that is indeed the case.

The cover art for this latest album — as with most of Vitchev’s previous recordings — was painted by the leader himself. It is certainly an abstract blend of light and dark colors, hues, brushstrokes and shades, that tie perfectly with the album title.

Hristo Vitchev Quartet - Of Light and Shadows

image courtesy of Hristo Vitchev

“Of Light and Shadows” is the first track that sets the pace for the album. And, like the cover, is multi-tiered and complex. The tune seems to be broken down in sections, with a light samba-like feel supporting the main theme. The mid-section establishes itself as a vehicle for the drums and piano to step out. The piece is very open and has a kind of baroque ECM label element to it. Some of Pat Metheny or John Abercrombie’s early work comes to mind.

“The Shortest Wavelength” follows with a thoughtful piano intro by Singh that leads into something, I believe, in 7. As with the ebb and flow of a traditional waveform, the piece slowly builds in intensity and subsides as drummer Shannon and bassist Robbins ride the tide.

“Selective Absorption” features a soft and lilting melody that wafts above the rhythmic fray. The dialogue and transitions between Vitchev and Singh are extremely focused and smooth. The head of the tune is as tuneful as it is challenging and Shannon’s rubato figures at the end provide excitement and flair.

After the somewhat up tempo arc of the previous tune they take it down a bit for kind of a romantic piece called “At Your Side.” There are some lovely peaks and valleys here where Vitchev demonstrates his strengths as both composer and soloist. Shannon’s artful brush work in tandem with Robbin’s warm and resonant bass is transcendent.

Hristo Vitchev Quartet

photo courtesy of Hristo Vitchev

“Prelude to Prismic Dance” is a tasteful intro piece featuring Singh’s graceful and lush solo piano. His use of triads and trills really builds things up and leads into “Prismic Dance.” Vitchev’s glossy chord textures and seemingly effortless solos glide nicely over odd time signatures and well-orchestrated dynamics.

The colorfully titled “Pentachromatic Butterflies” is a melodic piece that blends with a slightly dissonant or minor edge. It is very modal and open, with some fluid solos from Robbins. Also, this tune features a nice use of time and space. Vitchev isn’t really about chops as much as giving his solos a chance to breathe and develop with each pass.

The other overt ballad here is “ A Portrait of a Love Forgotten.” This is a pensive and somewhat somber tune that is sweetly lyrical and a nice showcase for the band. Vitchev plays a very linear, yet abstract melody, with a tone and approach that recalls greats like Lee Ritenour, Steve Khan or George Benson. Singh’s Bill Evans-like piano and Shannon’s Joe Morello-styled brush work make this one a highlight.

The album concludes with the noir-ish coined “Partial Darkness.” There is a lot going on here rhythmically. The drums kick things off in a very vibrant and flashy manner. Singh shifts into some dense and reflective passages as Vitchev holds the weight of the melody with a somewhat funky repetitive figure. There is a nice breakdown of the drums and bass in the middle and the structure offers the listener some interesting twists and turns.

The Hristo Vitchev Quartet is truly setting the scene for cutting edge jazz on a global scale. Pick up this current snapshot of their visionary music and you will not be disappointed.

Live Performances

The “Itinerary” page of Hristo’s website lists three upcoming performances.  Tonight, Saturday, February 3rd, as part of the Pat Bianchi Trio (Pat Bianchi, Hristo Vitchev, Sanah Kadoura), Hristo plays Cafe Stritch in San Jose, CA. On Wednesday, February 7th, the Hristo Vitchev 3 (Hristo, Pat Bianchi, and Sanah Kadoura) perform at Cafe Pink House in Saratoga, CA. And on Thursday, February 22nd, Hristo is back at Cafe Stritch as part of the SJZ Collective (Brian Ho, Oscar Pangilinan, Saúl Sierra, Wally Schnalle, John Worley, Jr., and Hristo) for “SJZ Collective Reimagines Monk.” Be sure to check Hristo’s website for future gigs as they’re added.

Album Review: Ghalia & Mama’s Boys – Let the Demons Out

Ghalia & Mama's Boys

photo courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Ghalia & Mama’s Boys: Let the Demons Out (Ruf Records)

Arguably, the blues is an American art form. But, having said that, one cannot simply compartmentalize it into such jingoist and provincial terms. A case in point is the marriage of bluesy Belgian street busker Ghalia Vauthier and New Orleans-based R&B rockers Mama’s Boys. Vauthier had been following her musical dreams all across the U.S. — from Chicago to Mississippi — and wound up in the great state of Louisiana. She met up with harmonica/vocalist Johnny Mastro and company, and the result is this album here.

Ghalia & Mama's Boys - Let the Demons Out

image courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

And what an album it is, too! It is a hot and spicy musical gumbo of rhythmic abandon and a hedonistic free-for-all. The album kicks off with an uptempo number called “4 AM Fried Chicken.” Basically it’s about after-hour juke joints where the drinks are flowing and the food is first rate. Vauthier sets things in motion, with a hard partying vibe that spotlights her expressive voice and guitarist Smokehouse Brown’s rough and ready sound.

Title track “Let the Demons Out” follows and has a moody, almost gospel-like feel to it. Vauthier’s vocals are eerie and are framed nicely by Brown’s atmospheric guitars and Mastro’s searing harmonica. “Press That Trigger” truly ties into the aforementioned “hedonistic” tag. This is a fun one, with thinly veiled wordplay like “c’mon babe, find the right tool to polish my jewel.”

Ghalia & Mama's Boys

photo courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

“Have You Seen My Woman” finds the chanteuse Vauthier singing from the perspective of a guy searching for his lady. The band chimes in collectively on backing vocals for the chorus as the rhythm section shuffles, the harmonica wails, and the guitar lays down some muscular crunch. “Hoodoo Evil Man” offers some of that swampy down-home-type blues this band is known for. It is an intoxicating and swinging standout.

There are some cool novelty type tracks that should be noted. “Waiting” is kind of a clever duet between Vauthier and Mastro where they claim themselves as king and queen of New Orleans. It’s a call and response thing that’s cute but gritty and hard-edged at the same time. The album closer, “Hiccup Boogie,” is a cool little story that Vauthier concocted about how she very well could’ve met the band in some Crescent City blues club. Brown’s blazing solo in the middle really ignites this piece and concludes the album with a crazy and full throttled exclamation point.

Ah, the universal language of some good ‘ol rockin’ blues! The marriage of Ghalia and Mama’s Boys is proof that music is the great unifier, as this stellar working class band blends seamlessly with the European vocal dynamo. Well worth checking out!

Album Review: Jane Getter Premonition – On Tour

Jane Getter

photo courtesy of Jane Getter

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Jane Getter Premonition: On Tour (Big Fun Productions)

All you jazz and fusion fans out there who pine for the days of classic progressive jazz-rock like Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House, UK, etc., etc., look no further. Guitarist-vocalist, bandleader, and composer Jane Getter will hook you right up. The former Saturday Night Live Band axewoman recently released On Tour, which is a compilation of performances from dates at the Outreach Festival in Schwaz, Austria, The Iridium nightclub in NYC, and a live jam at Avatar Studios, also in New York. And she’s got some of the best people in contemporary jazz and rock with her such as her keyboardist husband Adam Holzman (Miles Davis, Steven Wilson), guitarist Alex Skolnick (Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Testament), drummer Chad Wackerman (Frank Zappa, Allan Holdsworth), bassist Mark Egan (Pat Metheny), bassist Stu Hamm (Joe Satriani, Steve Vai), drummer John Mader (Jeff Berlin, Bernie Worrell), vocalist Corey Glover (Living Colour, Galactic), bassist Bryan Beller (Mike Keneally, The Aristocrats), saxophonist/flautist Theo Travis (David Gilmour, Steven Wilson), percussionist Mino Cinelu, and vocalist Chanda Rule. The recordings take place over a three year period from 2014-2016 and a number of the tracks are derived from her 2015 Madfish label studio release On.

Jane Getter Premontion - On Tour

image courtesy of Jane Getter

The first track, simply called “Opener,” sets the scene, with ambient and moody synthesized music by Holzman. That quickly leads into the very rhythmic and rock-oriented “Pressure Point.” Both Getter and Skolnick’s lead work blend and co-exist perfectly as Holzman’s graceful straight ahead piano passages infuse things with a romantic feel.

Getter sings lead on the following track, “Surprised,” and her voice floats ethereally above the tune’s off-kilter beats. She and Skolnick play some nice harmonized lines as Glover chimes in on vocals as well. The orchestral mid-section is haunting and provides an ample vehicle for inspired solos from everyone.

“Inversion Layer” has a catchy odd-time melody that, again, features some nice interplay between Getter and Skolnick. The band employs exceptional dynamics here as well.

“Falling” is a bit of a change in mood and pace. Getter picks up acoustic guitar and delivers a pensive vocal reminiscent of something off of Joni Mitchell’s more progressive jazz-oriented albums like Hejira or The Hissing of Summer Lawns. She really shines with this kind of thought-provoking material.

Jane Getter

photo courtesy of Jane Getter

“Diversion Intro” leads into the track “Diversion” where the tune has a real soaring quality. The band builds the track with each chorus and phrase until it drives the sonic threshold over the top. Getter proves to be a great bandleader in that she is astute enough to allow her counterparts to take center stage and blossom.

Corey Glover utilizes his storytelling skills and stellar pipes to tell the tale of a homeless person on “Train Man.” The mid-section has kind of a funky feel, with strong solos from the band as well as some key vocal hooks.

The hypnotic ambience of “Transparent” exudes rhythms that captivate and draw the listener in. This track features a nice harmonic exchange between Getter and Chanda Rule as well as some cool soloing from Mark Egan.

The album concludes with what sounds like an impromptu performance called “Somewhere Jam.” This is a live, in-the-studio bonus track and features some smooth and mellow solos from Theo Travis on woodwinds. It’s kind of a modal exploratory piece that also serves as a snapshot of the Jane Getter Premonition in 2014 as they were getting their unique ensemble vision underway.

This is a really strong record in the sense that you feel the empathy and interaction between Getter and the various musicians she’s working with. The performances from three different distinct locations and lineups are pretty consistent. With this live recording Getter continues to prove that she is a triple threat as guitarist, singer and composer.

Looking Ahead

The “upcoming dates” page of Jane’s website currently lists one scheduled show. On April 17th at The Iridium in New York City you can see Jane Getter Premonition featuring Vernon Reid. Be sure to check the website periodically for additional dates as they’re added.

Album Review: Bob Kulick – Skeletons in the Closet

Bob Kulick

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

Album Review of Bob Kulick: Skeletons in the Closet

It’s a Bob Kulick album, so you know it’s gonna be good. But this exceeds all expectations. Guitarist Bob Kulick is joined on Skeletons in the Closet by lead vocalists David Glen Eisley, Andrew Freeman, Todd Kerns, Robin McAuley, Dennis St. James, Dee Snider, and Vick Wright; bass players Kjell Benner, Bobby Ferrari, Bruce Kulick, Dennis St. James, Rudy Sarzo, and Chuck Wright; keyboardists Doug Katsaros and Jimmy Waldo; and drummers Vinnie Appice, Frankie Banali, Chuck Burgi, Scot Coogan, Brent Fitz, Bobby Rock, Jay Schellen, and Eric Singer. Talk about an all-star cast! Surrounded by this talented crew of iconic ’80s rock cohorts, Bob has delivered a great, catchy, engaging new ’80s-style rock album.

Bob Kulick - Skeletons in the Closet

image courtesy of Head First Entertainment

And that’s what really counts. Indeed, as I listen to my album review queue in preparation for writing these reviews, the pedigree of the band is unimportant; the music itself rises and falls on its merits. Needless to say, the music on this album rises.

Skeletons in the Closet is a mix of new songs and recordings of material from Bob’s rock ‘n roll past, including a couple songs each from Murderer’s Row and Skull.

I won’t pretend to be familiar with Murderer’s Row or Skull; I wouldn’t have known which songs were old vs. new if I hadn’t read the bio. As much as all hard rockers know Bob’s skill, I personally own only a few of the albums he played on. But that puts me in a position to hear all ten of these songs for the first time, like a kid in a candy store, and they’re an awesome collection of sweets.

The album kicks off its 10-tune journey with the five new tracks – well, four new tracks and an inspired cover.

First up is “Rich Man,” and it roars out of the box with power. Screaming guitar riffs, pounding, popping drums, and soaring vocals. Next up is “Not Before You”, and yes, we all know the swirling amazement that is a Robin McAuley vocal, so it should be no surprise that this was also a quick favorite, but I was more unexpectedly exceptionally impressed with the foreboding power of Dee Snider’s vox in “London,” with the booming, roaring guitars combining to form a theatrical, almost heavy metal Broadway (think Phantom of the Opera) all-encompassing wave of power. (I frequently underestimate Dee’s powerfully textured voice; you’d think I would know better by now.)

Bob Kulick

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

The included cover of “Goldfinger” is catchy and fun. Vick Wright brings just the right amount of snarl to the vocal, and the familiar guitar line eventually builds to an apex. “Player” follows, a solid number with swirling guitars in a style reminiscent of hair metal’s Sunset Strip heyday.

The Murderer’s Row songs are “India” and the title track. Of the two, “India” stands out as the more unique number for its House of Lords-esque soaring overtone (ironically, with David Glen Eisley providing the vocals), with crunchy guitars serving as the underpinning. “Skeletons in the Closet” is a more straightforward rocker, with the vocals more controlled, always almost-soaring but not quite; the result is the sort of building tension that’s the reason this style is frequented in the first place.

“Can’t Stop the Rock” is an old Bob Kulick-David Glen Eisley churning rocker that dates back to the pair’s work on “Sweet Victory” for SpongeBob.

And the last two songs are Skull numbers. The first is quite probably my favorite song on the disc, “Guitar Commandos.” Dennis St. James’ just-slightly-gritty, insistent vocals perfectly punctuate the dueling guitarwork of brothers Bruce and Bob Kulick on this energetic tune, the perfect melodic metal backdrop to a movie chase scene.

Bob Kulick

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

The disc’s last track, “Eyes of a Stranger,” reminds me of several ’80s bands, which is probably why I have such a hard time picking just one for comparison. The pounding beat, occasional screeching guitar dancing through the song’s pulsing rhythm, and the tuneful vocals that hint at depth but, when given a choice, choose melody over emotion, rendering the vox a fourth instrument alongside guitar, bass, and drums – hence the almost orchestrally-arranged feeling of this and similar songs. From a pure musical standpoint, this is as pure a representation of the melodic metal raunch and roll era as any; a great way to end the disc, especially for those of us who appreciate the subgenre.

In all, this is a great disc, but would you expect any less from Bob Kulick and the talent he assembled for it? Consistently amazing guitars from Bob, varied song styles, and top-shelf musicianship and powerful vocals served up a who’s who of heavy rock icons. So if this is your style, grab and enjoy Eyes of a Stranger. And, if you’re like me and don’t have parts of Bob’s back catalog, it’ll probably inspire you to dig around into his discography a little, too (starting with the discs from Murderer’s Row and Skull).

\m/

EP Review: Matt Westerman – Life Out Loud

Matt Westerman

photo courtesy of FARdigital PR

by James Morris, Contributing Blogger

EP Review of Matt Westerman: Life Out Loud

Reviewing new music can be a bit daunting. Expectations are high, and you always want to stumble upon something that you love. Personally, I like to be grabbed when I listen to something for the first time. It is not always obvious what it is that sparks that interest; it may be a melody or a clever lyric or a mood or the rhythm that sweeps you up.

It’s the same with a film or a book. The narrative is key. I want to be interested in the characters, intrigued by the story. I want to be drawn in so I stick around to find out how it turns out.

Matt Westerman - Life Out Loud

image courtesy of FARdigital PR

The big question is, does the new EP from Matt Westerman make me feel this way? Let’s see…

Matt Westerman is a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and Life Out Loud is his debut EP. His website says that he “writes upbeat acoustic pop songs with a positive, compassionate message meant to uplift and inspire listeners everywhere”.

In the last few years, Westerman has been carving out his dreams on stage, with gigs all over the Southern California area, from clubs to bars and even busking on the Santa Monica pier.

The EP features 6 tracks happily sitting in the popular mainstream with an easy pop presence. Lots of people will love this music, even if there are many other contemporary singer-songwriters competing for the same listener’s ear.

The opening song, “Don’t Give Up On You,” and following track, “One Fine Day,” are clearly the best of the collection with a smooth acoustic pop delivery.

“Don’t Give Up On You” starts a bit like a modern-sounding twist on a Simon and Garfunkel song but then grows through its positive vibe chorus to something more akin to Damien Rice or James Blunt. Matt Westerman’s voice is very much in the style and range of these singers.

Matt Westerman - Don't Give Up On You

image courtesy of FARdigital PR

“One Fine Day” has a Jack Johnson groove which confirmed my feeling that the EP had one foot in 2005, when a lot of singer songwriters were making an impact on the charts. Given their success, it is not a bad vein to mine.

The EP benefits greatly from the production of Brad Swanson, whose tracks can be heard in popular shows like Smallville, CSI and Ghost Whisperer. Matt is also joined by many notable session players including pedal steel player Marty Rifkin, a longtime Bruce Springsteen collaborator, and session journeyman Sean Hurley on bass, who has performed on John Mayer’s records.

There is so much potential for this debut release, and in this streaming age it won’t cost you anything to check it out for yourself. It would be worth doing just that, and then if you like what you hear you can commit to buying yourself a copy.

So whilst you all go and make up your own mind by giving Matt a listen, I still have to answer that big question I set earlier. How did it make me feel?

Well, here we have beautifully made music, with crisp and clean production. The songs are successfully populist in their themes of hope and love and deliver a pleasant FM radio wash.

I could argue that I felt it lacked an original edge and maybe I would have liked more narrative in the lyrics, but should this style of easy going, light touch, acoustic pop, really need to trouble itself with such ambition? Probably not, and I see from looking at Matt’s profile on Spotify he has a great many plays and monthly listeners, so it would seem his approach is, as I already said, a very popular one and I guess, at the end of the day, if it works for the many, who am I to doubt it?

Anyway, after any misgivings I had on first listen when it didn’t instantly grab me, I am glad to say that after many more, Matt’s debut release is definitely and positively a grower and worthy of your attention, so go listen.

Looking Ahead

Matt’s website currently list just a single show, a February 6th, 2018 data at Bar Lubitsch in West Hollywood, CA. See the “shows” page on his website for additional details and future shows as they’re added.

Alternatively hook up with him on social media, Facebook or Twitter.

Publisher’s Addendum

“One Fine Day” has made its way onto my personal smartphone playlist, the one whose first several shuffled-up songs during a breakfast or lunch out I periodically share with my twitter followers, dubbing it a breakfast (or lunchtime) playlist. One fine day (pun intended), since I carry “One Fine Day” on my phone, it’ll shuffle up this song from Matt. – Geoff Wilbur