Matty T. Wall – Sidewinder
If you ever wonder why someone like Eric Clapton has enjoyed more long term commercial success than his other guitar hero contemporaries like Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, look no further than the fact Clapton has an effective singing voice while Beck and Page are always reliant on someone else to handle the singing for them. Australian born singer, songwriter, and guitarist doesn’t have that problem. His twelve song release Sidewinder revitalizes the blues rock style while still paying tribute to the sound with the sort of fidelity that marks a true admirer. The album is produced by respected studio master Bob Clearmountain, renowned for his five star work for artists like The Rolling Stones, among others, and Clearmountain frames the collection in the best possible light and proves to be Wall’s most important collaborator on this project. Matty T. Wall’s Sidewinder features a smattering of outside material, but the bulk of the album’s songs are original and indicative of a first rate talent finding his stride.
Few albums of any style start off like this. The first track “Slideride”, is a ferocious instrumental led by Wall’s slide guitar attack and Clearmountain’s visceral production makes this impossible to ignore. His band is equally impressive as they easily handle a variety of snappy changes without ever running off the rails. It takes any musician or group tremendous skill to come so close to the edge of outright chaos, yet exert enough control that they never plummet into the abyss – Wall and his cohorts, however, make it sound easy. One of the strongest rock tracks comes with the album’s title song and Wall’s muscular guitar is well served by his clear, strong vocal presence. The backing vocals on his cover of Trombone Shorty’s “Something Beautiful” are a welcome addition to the album’s sound and the optimistic air surrounding the song strikes a notable contrast with the preceding songs. Wall unleashes some of the album’s best lead playing with this song and, unlike many axe slingers in both blues and rock, there’s never a hint of self indulgence dragging down his playing.
The slow build of his next cover, a deeply felt swing at Sam Cooke’s “Change is Gonna Come”, simmers with his guitar work and lovely singing. He never treats the song with kid gloves, thankfully, and instead rolls through the song like he’s the first performer since Cooke to attempt the tune. Drummer Ric Whittle is an important factor in this performance and his scattered drum fills hit just the right note. We’re back to much more playful blues with the track “Shake It” and it’s entertaining listening to Wall spin through some storied blues tropes and make them his own rather than sounding beholden to them. The soul music trappings of “Ain’t That The Truth” is firmly grounded in life’s realities rather than opting for some cookie cutter take on guitar driven soul music. The vocal harmonies in this song are especially rich and further lighten the track’s touch.
He embraces an acoustic sound with the song “Leave It All Behind” and even some touches of strings to make this a surprisingly pastoral number on an album that’s anything but. His voice is every bit as comfortable with this material as it the rough-hewn blues rock and further strengthens the case that Wall is one of the more versatile talents to emerge from the roots music scene in recent years. Sidewinder is an auspicious release in every way and demands the attention of both serious and casual music fans alike.
Jason Hillenburg approved by Sebastian Cole