Eric Matthews' solo debut is filled with natural textures: trumpet, harpsichord, piano, violin, viola and tenor sax. Rest assured: Guitar, bass and drums are still used – they're just harder to find. Initially, the music comes across as a blend of lost late-'60s classics like Love's Forever Changes and the Zombies' Odyssey and Oracle (Matthews' laid-back vocal delivery owes more than a nod to the Zombies' Colin Blunstone). I say "initially" because repeated listens to It's Heavy in Here open up the comparisons to Robert Kirby's beautiful orchestration of English folk hero Nick Drake's work and even John Cale's haunting arrangements of Nico's solo material.
IT'S HEAVY IN HERE
Matthews's striking melodies and graceful arrangements recall several whistle stops along the pop music timeline, visiting and grazing on painstaking '60s sophisticates like Phil Spector, George Martin, Brian Wilson, and their gentle, non-bombastic use of strings and horns on "To Clear The Air" and "Gilded Cages." From there, it's time for a snack of slick, soulful '70s Top-40 taffy by Gerry Rafferty, Walter Egan, Orleans, Seals & Crofts, and Little River Band, among others, followed by a dash of wistful '80s whiz kids like Sting, Richard Page, and Mark King on cuts like "Becomes So Dark" and "The Pleasant Kind." Clearly the man is a musical omnivore who has learned his lessons well, yet his too-smart-to-be-wimpy songs don't sound like they belong anywhere other than in the present, pulsing out of the stereo with the restorative powers of a hot bath after a day cutting cane in the fields.John Chandler
THE LATENESS OF THE HOUR