Matt Andersen – Halfway Home By Morning
IDLA/True North Records
13 songs – 52 minutes
This is the 10th album from Canadian soul-bluesman Matt Andersen, and a very impressive effort it is, too. Andersen has won European Blues Award for Best Solo/Acoustic Act twice, 9 Maple Blues Awards and the solo/duo category at the 2010 International Blues Challenge in Memphis.
Halfway Home By Morning was recorded “live off the floor” at Southern Ground Studio in Nashville, the result is 13 self-penned tracks that touch on country, rock, soul and Americana, all leavened with a dash of the blues.
The album kicks off with the lazy grind of “What Would Your Mother Say?”, a punchy country-rock song that benefits from weeping slide guitar and the glorious backing vocals of the McCrary Sisters. The slide guitar appears on a number of tracks, adding an additional layer of blues to tracks like the funky, riff-based “Free Man” or the pleading “Give Me Some Light”
Andersen has assembled a crack band on Halfway Home By Morning. In addition to Andersen’s own guitar playing, producer Steve Dawson adds acoustic and electric guitars, pump organ, pedal steel and mandotar. The rhythm section of bassist Mike Farrington and drummer Jay Bellerose capture a series of tightly-knit-yet-loose grooves, while Chris Gestrin’s contributions on hammond organ, Wurlitzer, piano and mellotron add real depth to the songs. The Muscle Shoals horn section of Jim Hoke (saxophones), Charles Rose (trombone) and Steve Hermann (trumpet) add extra sparkle to tracks like “Better Than You Want” while special guest Amy Helm duets beautifully with Andersen on the country ballad, “Something To Lose”.
Despite such talent in the band, the real star of the album is Andersen’s deep, warm voice and his ability to fully inhabit each song, whether lamenting lost love in “Give My Some Light” or pledging eternal devotion in “Better Than You Want”. The climatic, sustained single note end to the gospel blues of “Over Me” is almost worth the price of admission by itself.
There are other highlights aplenty throughout Halfway Home By Morning, from the lovely acoustic guitar solo on the 60s’ soul of “The Bed I Made”, to the irresistible horn introduction of “Gasoline”, the joyous sing-along chorus of “Long Rider” (which manages the interesting trick of having an ostensibly downbeat lyric but a toe-tapping mind worm of a melody) and the organ-led “Take Me Back”.
The album ends with the surprisingly uplifting “Quarter On The Ground (A Song For Uncle Joe)” on which Andersen pays heartfelt tribute to his late uncle, supported by just an acoustic guitar and the beautiful backing vocals of the McCrary Sisters. And in many ways, that song is a microcosm for the entire album – well written songs, superbly played and sung with a deep emotion that is both energising and inspiring.
Halfway Home By Morning is an exuberant celebration and is thoroughly enjoyable. It’s probably fair to say there is more soul and country here than pure blues, but if your tastes run to the likes of Delbert McClinton and Lee Roy Parnell, you will definitely want to check out Halfway Home By Morning.