“Times of Trouble” by Matthew Hornell

Local singer-songwriter Matthew Hornell will be releasing his second full length album entitled Have It All next Friday (Feb 8th) at the LSPU Hall. He was kind enough to provide me with an advanced copy and I decided to review track by track in much the same style as I reviewed Ameila Curran’s Spectators a while back. Here are some of my first impressions of Matt’s new jams.

1. “Witness” – Killer opener. It starts of with this subdued piano and steel guitar dirge with Matthew singing in his baritone. Then, bam! The second verse hits you between the eyes as Matthew switches to powerhouse-mode with the band following suit. I love the beautiful back up vocals here as well, courtesy of Jennah Barry. It really gives it a great old school soul vibe.

2. “Crimes” – Uptempo yet ominous. Again that steel guitar really gives the song an eerie, unsettling feel. Some incredibly jazzy organ playing toward the end which fits nicely with that funky drum and cymbal work. Lyrically it’s poetic and enigmatic with hints of Ron Hynes and Townes Van Zandt.

3. “Times of Trouble” – A beautifully forlorn ballad. Lovely brush work on the drums, finger picked banjo and mellowed organ give the song some incredible texture. Again, I love the vocal harmonies here between Matthew and Jennah. It’s got some touches of Ryan Adams circa Heartbreaker and Gold. Also a very cool ending with the backward vocal wash.

4. “Midnight” – Now this is a change. The first Matthew Hornell song I’ve ever heard backed by an electronic drum track, but it works. A nice contrast between the obviously synthetic beat and the very organic sound of the acoustic guitar and slide. The male/female vocal harmonies slay me every time, and bring me back to the first time I heard “Goodbye For Now” on CHMR a few years ago.

5. “Salt In The Air” – Some really interesting time shifts in this one. Love that boxcar harmonica and slide combination. Great lyrics about getting back to the basics and what really matters in life: “Your content is a gospel, let’s get back to what matters. Get the axe, cut the wood. Let the wood hold these walls. Let the loving be good. Keep the salt in the air, in your hair, all things scarce, almost lost.”

6. “Relief” – Kudos to Andrew Sneddon on the amazing slide work throughout this album. I know I’ve mentioned it on pretty much every song so far but this one takes the cake. Great energy on this track. It’s got a real “Devil Came Down to Georgia” feel. I love Matt’s lyrics here and on the whole record. They’re not a literal storytelling style but there’s a story buried under the abstraction. He gives you images you can can use to some up with your own meaning.

7. “Sunny Chances” – Probably my favourite song on the album. I’m not usually a fan of tear-jerkers but there’s something about this one. I love the lyrics, very Leonard Cohen-esque. Pure poetry. “Lose all that’s tender, the bottom hits first, a blade in the back, all the best looking worse. If there is an anchor don’t let it lie, roll in a number, toss me a line.” Brilliant.

8. “No Longer Blue” – Great, gritty, bluesy ballad. Tom Terrell knocks it out of the park again with the harmonica interludes between verses. Matt’s brassy baritone really shines on this one. I love that pause at the end where you think the songs about to end unresolved.

9. “St. Andrew’s Cross” – Representin’ the rock with a little Celtic fusion. Love the uilleann pipes on this one, courtesy of Jeremy Keddy.

10. “Have It All” – The title track saved for last. Kind of sums up the whole atmospheric, melancholy vibe of the record. Matthew switches back to powerhouse vocal mode on the end of this one, with stirring results. A great, heartfelt closer to this incredible new album.

Drop by the LSPU Hall on Friday, February 8th to catch the release party for Matthew Hornell’s latest album Have It All, hear the songs performed live along with Katie Baggs, and pick up your own advanced copy at the show. The record will be released in stores on February 19th. Tickets are available at LSPU Hall box office.


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