Scott Matthews - Passing Stranger
Ladies and gentleman, I believe we have a strong contender for the award "worst album cover of the year". The crappiest by a country mile, the artwork for the debut album by Scott Walker features a picture of the artist that portrays a cross between Bobby Gillespie and a Ginsters pasty. Beneath this moon-like monstrosity is some lazily scrawled text hailing both the singer and his album title. It really is too bad, a shame really considering how good some of this album is.
Recorded last year at Artisan Studios in Birmingham, Passing Strangers was produced by Scott and Jon Cotton and mastered by veteran Ray Staff, who served his time on such albums as Hunky Dory and Physical Graffiti. The songs do have an old-fashioned feel to them, with a lazy atmosphere and a warmth not often found on modern recordings. Scott can certainly play, his guitar the driving force of an album that ties together folk, country and blues to a fine effect.
Eastern influences also play their part, particularly on Dream Song, which is full of sitar sounds and tablas tapping away in the background. The strings also provide an exotic touch, sweeping and flowing adding much to the song. Sweet Scented Figure is also an outstanding track, with a lightly played rhythm and a country feel, the vocal switches from harsh to smooth as the song progresses. Passing Stranger keeps the country atmosphere, whilst the single Elusive is wonderful, a light, airy piece of music, organic and full of life.
As the album progresses though you get a real sense of their being perhaps just a few songs too many. City Headache contains many different feels, switching into waltz-time, at one point bearing an alarming resemblance to the theme from ‘Allo ‘Allo. After Elusive the album does run out of steam, Earth to Calm and White Feathered Medicine pleasant enough songs but nothing particularly new.
This is a warm, gentle record, where the songwriter shines through. Matthews has a fine voice, and allows experimentation into his sound which makes this a far better prospect than the likes of Paolo Nutini. Whilst slightly flabby at times, this is an impressive album.