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Matthews Southern Comfort: Like A Radio

Eight years after their last appearance, Iain Matthews revives his Southern Comfort with Like A Radio, the man with a solo back catalogue larger than most people’s record collection having also spent time over the years as part of Plainsong, Return To Zero and the much underrated Hi-Fi with Pavlov’s Dog man David Surkamp. However, it was with Fairport Convention that Matthews (then going by Ian Matthews with only one ‘i’) first came to prominence, and so it’s fitting that this return blurs the lines between the folk of his early forays and the Americana (before it was thus named) of his later work.

Referred to as the ‘Dutch line-up’, Matthews reconvenes with multi-instrumentalist Bart Jan Baartmans and keyboard player Bart de Win, alongside Eric Devries on vocals. And what a confident collective they make, the easy but forceful nature created something that can only come into being from a truly classy cast. What heightens the effect is that MSC also have stories to tell, axes to grind and concerns to share, the likes of “The Age Of Isolation” a lament to the modern world of ‘socials’ where interconnectivity merely drives loneliness. Played out across a considered sprinkle of piano and a languid beat it’s both seductive and startling; honesty apparent in both music and words. And it isn’t alone, The slightly jazzy feel to the album’s title track using a clever metaphor to discuss rejection.

A re-recorded version of the band’s own “Darcy Farrow” proves a masterstroke, this new stripped back setting of lap-steel, piano and voice tugging at the heartstrings in such a way that it’s virtually impossible not to get caught up in the sorrowful lyric that drives it. While a slightly electrified re-working of James Taylor’s “Something In The Way She Moves” (one of three bonus tracks) proves equally unmissable. Whereas a third vintage cut, “To Love”, hits a slightly more energetic sweet-spot through its gently pulsating beat and casually layered vocals.

The new compositions however, are in no way undone by the oldies, “Chasing Rainbows” replete with sitar painting a multi-coloured picture, while “Jive Pajamas” adds a jaunty upbeat opportunity to let off a little steam. It is, to be honest, a rare moment of levity, for while Like A Radio is never less than engaging, it is a reasonably serious collection; “Crystals On The Glass” a meander into another world, whereas “The Thought Police” becomes a light handed but provoking peek into a society now monitored and corralled by the constant interference of ‘big brother’, whether we realise it or not.

Nearly 50 years after they debuted, Matthews Southern Comfort return, just as classy, just as assured and just as engaging as ever. That Like A Radio may well find them to be more relevant than at any other stage is a testament to Iain Matthews, his band and his music.

Track Listing
1. The Thought Police
2. Like a Radio
3. The Age of Isolation
4. Bits and Pieces
5. Darcy Farrow
6. Crystals on the Glass
7. Been Down so Long
8. Jive Pajamas
9. Phoenix Rising
10. To Love
11. Right as Rain
12. Chasing Rainbows
13. Something in the Way She Moves (Bonustrack)
14. A Heartless Night (Bonustrack) 
15. Your Cake and Eat It (Bonustrack)

Added: July 31st 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Iain Matthews online
Hits: 638
Language: english

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