Mike Mattison – Afterglow
CD: 10 Songs, 40 Minutes
Styles: Roots, Americana, All Original Songs
Ever read a book, watch a movie, or listen to a CD and think, “It’s almost what I’m looking for, but not quite?” It lands a hairsbreadth short of the bullseye, though it’s nice enough as-is. Grammy winner Mike Mattison’s new album Afterglow consists of decent roots and Americana, smooth and melodic, but Rainey Wetnight was looking for some blues. At best, this release is blues-based, with lots of lovely riffs and harmonious vocals. Most of its ten original offerings sound similar, such as the opener and closer, “Charlie Idaho” and “Got Something for You.” On the whole, it ain’t half-bad, but those searching for down-and-dirty, growling, gritty numbers should search elsewhere. This is an atmospheric album for a drive down the scenic route.
You might remember Mike Mattison from such ensembles as Scrapomatic, The Derek Trucks Band, and most recently, the Tedeschi Trucks Band. As lead vocalist of Scrapomatic, he picked up a nomination for Minnesota Music Awards best male vocalist, and both he and co-founder Paul Olsen were also nominated for best R&B Group. He is also an active essayist who publishes on music and poetry. Since 2013, Mattison and Ernest Suarez have edited “Hot Rocks: Songs and Verse,” an ongoing feature in Five Points: A Journal of Literature and Art. He serves on the Council of the Association of Literary Critics, Scholars, and Writers. A native of Minneapolis, MN, Mike learned to play a variety of musical instruments before graduating from high school. He boasts varying degrees of prowess on the recorder, clarinet, tenor sax, trombone, bass, French horn, and of course, guitar. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in English and American Literature, though he has continued his musical career, finding it a complement to his education.
Performing alongside Mike (lead vocals, acoustic guitar) are Dave Yoke on guitars; Tyler Greenwell on drums, percussion and effects; Frahner Joseph on bass, Paul Olsen on guitars for tracks two, four, eight and nine; Rachel Eckroth on keyboards, and Kofi Burbridge on organ.
Mattison starts us off with a loping Western-style number called “Charlie Idaho,” with grim guitar and a chilling backstory. “The story of Charlie Idaho has somewhat morphed over time into a twilit legend,” Mike says. “He was a white man who ran a levee camp overseeing mostly black laborers and a large corral of working mules. Mr. Charlie was alleged to have murdered more than one uncooperative laborer. In those days, before there was anything like an Animal Welfare Act or PETA, the government would send out what was known as a ‘Mercy Man’ to make sure the mules weren’t being mistreated. Of course, no one was particularly concerned about the men.” In this song, Charlie shoots him, proving that even mercy can be killed. Fortunately, after that comes “Afterglow,” an upbeat little ditty with rat-a-tat drums by Tyler Greenwell. “Deadbeat” brings a young Tom Petty to mind, and later on, “On Parchartrain” possesses old-fashioned country harmony.
Afterglow may not have very much blues on it, but it still leaves a pleasant taste in listeners’ ears.