Originally planned for release much earlier in the year to coincide with an ostensible launch tour, for reasons unknown things got put back, to which end anticipation will have either increased or, more problematically, waned.
Two years in the making, recorded in his garden shed-studio, it is, as the title says, a sequel to 2014's "Part 1", the album that proved the Wolverhampton-born singer-songwriter's breakout. It is. However, strikingly different, Matthews describing it as an attempt to connect the artist he was a decade ago with the artist he is today, something that finds tangible form in the presence of accordion player Richard Adey who was last year on 2005's "City Headache". Also on board are regular collaborators Sam Martin (drums), Danny Keane (cello) and Mat Taylor (flute) as well as new addition Paul Connop on guitar and Jon Thorne and Byron Wallen providing double bass and sousaphone, respectively. Matthews talks of the two works in terms of contrasting colours, the former being sepia and creams with this of a more technicolour persuasion, which, roughly translated, means a greater diversity of sound, ranging from twilight folk to swampy blues, with an emphasis on electric guitar.
The hand percussion notes of "Drifter" open proceedings before the other instruments and backing vocals surface to backdrop Matthews' reedy croon conjuring a heat haze similar to America's "Horse With No Name" or a more opiate "Marrakesh Express". It's a languid number and the mood's sustained on the Laurel Canyonish-roots feel of "The Rush" with its bluesy harmonica. Keeping the tone muted and restrained, "Where I Long To Be", tabla and sitar nodding back to earlier Eastern influences as they entwine with cello, Matthews' vocals taking on a yearning falsetto air of almost choir-sensibilities.
By complete contrast, the earthy 70-second "Black Country Boy" is all slide guitar and distorted falsetto blues, a nod of kinship perhaps to erstwhile local lad collaborator Robert Plant. Likewise, the six-minute carnival "Waltz At Nightfall", with its multitracked vocals and swirl of instruments also lifts the sonic levels. Otherwise, however, the mood is more evocative of late 60s/early 70s West Coast on the lackadaisical breeze of the chords-tumbling "Two Entwined" and the Jackson Browne/CS&N echoes in "The Lantern Flower", while the twin influences of Tim Buckey and Nick Drake can be traced through the narcotic woozy headiness of "Guardians of Sleep" (which, fittingly, follows on from the acoustic, cello backed lullabying "Stay In Bed") and "Steal My Star" or the simple acoustic hymnal "Home & Dry". There's also lush pychfolk to be found on the brief Anything and, on album closer, "Good Times", with its waltzing piano accompaniment, nods way back to the lush sounds of 30s orchestras.
The hugely accomplished work of an artist at the height of his powers, confident to experiment while also comfortable with his musical past, he describes it as a brighter spectrum of light after the darker tonal range of previous work and that he feels all the better for it. So will you.
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