Matt McGinn – Latter Day Sinner

Matt 3Latter Day Sinner is Matt McGinn’s second studio album. It mixes folk with Americana while it crafts landscapes, and small silhouettes that try not to be seen. It is loved and heartbroken and hopeful and final and forever.

‘I’m Not Looking Down Anymore’ was written by Matt and Nashville collaborator Madeleine Slate. Simple guitar opens it for us like a barefoot walk across the lawn. Then Matt’s voice strolls over and starts telling us what’s happening, in fact the feel is more like he is talking to himself. The melody is yearning and beautiful. When Madeleine starts singing she sounds young and careworn, her voice layers well with the peat and bark in Matt’s. They have written a song here that shows off Matt’s voice, and it seems he is happy to apply his round County Down accent.

The opening bars of ‘Lie’ are vaguely Yo La Tengo, then there is a beautiful breath between those bars and when Matt starts to sing; and the vibe moves on to a different climate. His voice is plaintive and smooth. The high notes are lingering and the heartbreak is palpable. I hope he only made it up.

‘World Of Time’ is another co-write with Madeleine Slate. The key is different, the tone of voice is stronger, the guitar is sparse and mollifying like it’s trying to keep things calm. By the time we reach the chorus he is composed, and again, that County Down accent is round and clear. “If there’s one thing I know, I’m calling your bluff, and as far as I can tell, my good is good enough.” The last “good” is lengthened to prove his point; and with a calm final flourish on the guitar the song ends. Time’s up.

‘You Have Your Dreams’ pours in with Colm McClean playing the saw and adding sleepy otherworldliness to the mix. It sounds like there is a single drumbeat in the background, a slow broken heart beat. “On a dark street corner … she sits singing with a bottle of wine”; and so the scene is set. Matt’s voice is warm and cares about her, and her dreams that didn’t work.

Are those drum brushes being used by Rab Bennett on ‘Fall Into You’? The track has a lovely background whisper, like clothes being folded.  It fills it up. Then dream heavy harmonies manage to lift it up after Matt’s clean voice tunnels a path through it all. This song is gorgeous. There is a touch of the Van Morrison’s here, at his romantic best. The best that opens an ache in you, or puts words to an ache that you’ve had for a long time.

Country blues are on offer as well on title track ‘Latter Day Sinner’. With a touch of the ‘Lay Down Sally’s going on, Matt’s voice naturally falls into sandy country vocals; it even gets a bit breathy in parts. The clapping and John McCullough’s Hammond hints at a TV preacher channel playing in the background, while strident guitar resonates between verses. Class

It didn’t surprise me to see that Anthony Toner was involved with ‘We’re Fine’ with its easy melody and messages of love and fallibility. That’s what he does best. He is also responsible for some fine slide guitar on this track too though, and when that mixes with the harmonica it leaves behind a swirly pattern.

Arco Quartet’s strings transport you into ‘It’s Just Your Way’, and then give way to Matt’s voice that has yet another timbre. It is Duke Special meets Lambchop meets Mike Scott and it is glorious. I want this song to be written for me.

I even found myself studying the album’s sepia artwork by Mark Reihill in a way that reminded me of buying LPs all those years ago and making stories out of the graphics. From sight and sound this album truly is beautiful. Cara Gibney, GiggingNI.com