Matt Owens, Whiskey And Orchids - album review
Matt Owens has previous - as the bassist with 00s indie folk outfit Noah And The Whale they bothered the charts (and adverts galore) with their hits 5 Years Time and L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N..
So it may surprise fans of those guys that Matt has an openly more country feel to his first solo record.
His voice suits perfectly. Grainy and wistful, it sounds a tad like Jon Loudon of American rockers Restorations growling over proceedings.
This is added to guitars, keys and soft-touch percussion to build a lighter approach to music that will please some and leave others a little bored.
There's a lot of hopefulness to some tracks. The Piano At The Greyhound, for example, is like that musical montage towards the middle third of every romantic comedy where the guy or girl realises they have made a mistake and need to correct it immediately. Think a snowed in rural pub with roaring fire while the locals listen to a regular sing.
But it's not all happy-go-lucky. Things are slowed down in an emotive sense for Match Day. Sickly sweet keys link chorus to verse as Matt crows about the downsides of touring and tugs at the heartstrings.
He attempts the downtrodden again on One F*** Of A Year. While the emotions are running high on this alternative Christmas track, he does miss the mark with a few sentiments - have people really forgotten about Grenfell?
There are some bigger band sounds too. Opener Lay Down Honey has a thunking bass line throughout punched through with some big-beat percussion unlike a lot of what is elsewhere on this.
It's just a shame the start is not matched by the end. The final couple of tracks could have been missed off - the title track and Last Play Of The Day fail to really ignite. The former sounds a bit like a Bryan Adams cast-off, while the latter is very much the soundtrack to staying at the party well past its peak.
This record is a hotch-potch effect of targets hit and missed. It feels staggered and like a faltering engine that keeps cutting out in the cold.
Matt Owens brings his album promo tour to Birmingham's Kitchen Garden Café on March 7