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Matthew Curry - If I Don’t Got You
Every time a new teenage act comes around with any sort of talent, the blues world seems to get all agog. Few of them really inspire me to spend more than a passing moment listening to them, or if they achieve their potential they transition over into the rock scene and forget the blues that made them famous. In this case I think we really have something different. Matthew Curry transcends the hype and performs, sings, and writes extraordinarily well. He and his team produce music like highly talented and seasoned professionals. To use a perhaps over-used expression, I really think he IS the real deal.
What I like about Matthew Perry is pretty much everything he does; a mere 16 years old yet he has great “feeling” to his work. He does not overstate his case. The guitar notes have air and space between them, even when he goes out on the big, solo riff. The vocals are gritty yet tight and precise. He has soul and really feels the blues. And added to all of that are the arrangements; they include a brassy horn section and keyboard that add depth and richness to the overall sound. Seven great originals followed by two stunning covers make up this CD.
The CD opens with the title track, a rocking song with a funky and soulful sound. Curry shows us he can sing, play and arrange great songs right off the bat and sets the stage for an exceptional introduction to his music. The horn section adds a lot to this track, making it sound even better but not over the top. Curry next moves into “New York City Blues”, where he trades some licks with the keyboard and delivers some extremely awesome guitar solos while delivering very nice vocals. “Storm’s a Brewin” is a hot instrumental track where Curry channels a little of the Allman Brothers’ Dickey Betts sound (or maybe even some classic Marshall Tucker Band-styled licks), but he is original and creative; this is not a “copy cat” sort of track. He is showing us what he does best- write and play awesome songs built on a theme and then takes them in his own original direction. He gives us some big riffs and licks but (as I stated before) they are not overdone. The restraint and artistry comes into play and we see talent that truly belies his age.
“Walk Out The Door” is next up, and Curry again treats us to some atmospheric stuff yet remain bound in the blues and not in some mega-rock sort of mode. The organ here plays a nice counterpoint to Curry’s guitar and the song just rocks from beginning to end. Matthews’ vocals are also tight- he sells the lyrics with his great intonation and fire in his voice. On “Hear The Highway” Curry takes us on another fiery ride, where he tells us the story how he wants to hit the road and bring his blues to the world, and I believe him. This kid is committed to his craft and his roots in the blues sound deep and firm. The guitar here is driving and flaming hot.
The tone and timber slow way down on the next cut, “Blinded By The Darkness”. This is the longest track on the CD by far at over seven minutes. What is cool is that the song does not drag- Matthew delivers slow blues to us in a manner that makes you just sway back and forth to and ask for more. The horns play a big part again, adding their charm and depth once again. The tenor sax solo is poignant, and the organ solo is also super. Doug Daniels provides support is on sax just for this tracks and he is just great. Curry’s vocals and guitar are truly “real”, too. Slow blues done wrong can be just awful; here we have slow blues done right, with a great mix of musicians who support each other quite well.
The last original cut is the song “Dancing To The Blues”, with a driving beat and wickedly hot guitar solos.
The first seven cuts were all originals and are exceptionally good. The last two songs are covers and they also amazed me. Curry delivers a spectacular take on Charlie Patton’s “High Water Everywhere”, giving it a New Orleans sort of sound with slide guitar that immediately made me think of Sonny Landreth. The almost demonic drum and bass lines are in the style of Landreth’s “Congo Square” and the slide work is just impeccable and impressive. Curry amazed me even more here with this creative cover than on his original cuts with his unique approach to Patton’s song.
The last track is a more straight-up cover of Warren Hayne’s “Soulshine”. It is done in more of an Allman Brothers/Government Mule style, but Curry gets creative with the horn section adding a great dimension to the cut. Curry sells the vocal solos with a strong showing and his guitar work emulates the style of Haynes, but his delivery is in a slightly more up tempo mode than the original, which gives us Curry’s unique spin on this while paying homage to the original at the same time.
Curry’s band “The Fury” are exemplary. Randy Hoffman on guitar, Greg Neville on drums and back-up vocals and Jeff Paxton on bass and back-up vocals are superb support for this young star-to-be. They are flawless in their work with Curry. Erik Nelson on keyboard and organ is also outstanding. I noted Doug Daniels support on sax on the one track above, but Jim Kozak plays the sax on the rest of the CD and he is no slouch, either. Mark Babbitt on trombone, and Greg Hensel and Charlie Mueller on trumpet really add to this body of work, and backing vocals by Karyl Nelson, Nel Erikson and Robin Willis all make for a great sound. Nelson and Carlson also serve as the CD’s co-producers and, as I’ve noted, do a stellar job making the sound and blend of musicians seamless and full bodied- well done!
I usually try to give constructive criticism when I hear new artists. In this case I am somewhat speechless. All I can say and hope is that Matthew Curry stays true to himself and his blues back ground. He is real, he is good, and he not some Stevie Ray Vaughn wanna-be. I thoroughly enjoyed this album and I highly recommend it! I can’t wait to see this great young artist live!
Reviewer Steve Jones is a Board Member of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program.