I have had the good fortune to live with the new Scott Matthews album, What the Night Delivers, for a little while (courtesy of signing up for an early copy as a result of being at the superb Wolverhampton show a couple of weeks ago) Its official release on San Remo Records isn’t due until September when it comes out alongside a raft of shows around the UK. It can however be ordered now through his website for those who, understandably, can’t wait until then.
Having heard a few of the songs from the album at earlier shows, and hoping they presaged a set of songs that engendered the excitement of the first album, I didn’t want to rush into comment for fear of letting my hopes run away with me. But now I know the whole set a good deal better and, without being a retrograde step, they are a return to the things that first grabbed me about Scott Matthews.
Gone is what was, in hindsight , the slightly over-blown band sound of Elsewhere and here is a determinedly intimate and up-close album, concentrating on the Mr M’s vocals and guitar work, an album of rare delicacy and lightness of touch. After hoping for an album like this, what a triumph, what a relief!
Although the band takes more of a back seat, there are none the less some most excellent supporting musicians – Sam Martin on drums and percussion, Greg Stoddard on lap steel (even more rewarding in a live situation), the fine Danny Keane on cello and Danny Thompson on double bass.
As suggested by the title, What the Night Delivers, is in many respects music made for the dark, the quiet, the solitary long drive on night-time country roads – not an album to get them out and dancing in the aisles, and thank goodness for that.
There are tantalising echoes of the first album Passing Stranger – not just in the atmosphere, but some of the structures, perhaps not quite so overt this time, but still there – the almost-tracks such as at the very start before Myself Again and once more the last minute of Bad Apple leading into So Long, My Moonlight – musical cameos, perfect in their own way but also creating a little more space and air between songs.
Also in evidence is the Indian influence of before – notably in the beautiful walking Home in the Rain, but fleeting glimpses elsewhere in rhythms and intervals, the tabla on Bad Apple for instance.
To my mind there is not a weak track here, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few particular stand-out tracks, for me these include Ballerina Lake, Head First into Paradise, Echoes of the Lonely, the aforementioned Walking Home in the Rain.
The album gives off the same vibe that you get from Scott’s more intimate and stripped back shows (such as the two Wolverhampton shows at Newhampton Arts – in 2011 and 2009 ). These are personal and direct, uncluttered by unnecessary effects and additions, and similarly here on this album everything has a place and a purpose. A joy and delight form start to finish, anyone yet to catch him live should make the effort for the dates in the autumn, you cannot fail to be impressed. I hope Mr M doesn’t mind but below I have popped my own little vid of The Man Who Had Everything from the Wolverhampton show just recently – apologies for the light level – should he not want it here I will happily remove, but it does give a hint of how the new material comes over live.