My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Matt Mason – The Songwriter’s Collection, Volume 1

Matt Mason has been trying to break through for a long time now. As a 20 year old back in 2006 he was a contestant on Nashville Star, finishing fourth the year Chris Young won. Five years later he won CMT’s Next Superstar, and scored a deal with Warner Brothers. That deal fizzled out with nothing to show for it, but now he has self-released an album. A few of the tracks ppreviously appeared on an EP, Chasing Stardust, in 2013. His vocals are a little flat, but serviceable, and the songwriring is solid. The music is traditional country leaning to the 70s Outlaw tradition, and the lyrical theme is of literal outlaws and criminals.

‘Where I’ve Been’ is an arresting opener, telling the story of a restless drifter with a criminal past and dreams of Nashville:

Goin’ down a road that’s full of sin
Been to Hell on a train and back again
I can’t tell you where I’m going
But I know where I’ve been

It is an excellent song.

Even better, ‘E’ is a dark but compelling story song about a man hunting down his wife’s lover:

Just blew past the county line
That needle’s pushin’ ninety-five
I’m on you like a shadow move for move
All you see is my headlights
I see the whites in your eyes
That fear mirrored in your rearview
Go ahead and ride the gas
Don’t think that you’re livin’, man,
Just ’cause you make it past Dead Man’s Curve
Man, as far as I can tell
We might both end up in hell
But you’re sure as hell goin’ first

I also loved the classic styled heartbreak drinking song ‘Liquor’:

Wish I could hold that girl like I can hold my liquor
I’d be in her arms not in this bar on one more bender

The reflective acoustic ballad ‘Outrun Your Mind’ effectively reveals a man who can’t escape his past.

‘Feather In Her Halo’ is a love song in which the sinner protagonist is willing to change his ways in return for his lady’s love, even going to church and spending his leisure time reading. ‘I Run’ is a nice love song from the chastened point of view of someone who has already followed that path and rejects “the me that can hurt you”. The metaphor-laden ‘Reason to Ride’ is another love song from a man with a troubled past.

‘Chasing Stardust’ was written directly about the singer’s past experience with cocaine addiction. While lyrically believable, the melody and vocal are both a bit flat. The quietly confessional closing track, ‘7 Years Old’ is also autobiographical, but much better. He traces his life from a childhood closeness to God, though falling prey to sin in his late teens and drugs (coyly called ‘candy’) in his early 20s:

Then I found forgiveness a late 29
And I asked an angel if she’d be my wife
She called me fallen and that saved my life

‘Guitars And Guns’ draws on tales of the Old West to compare a musician’s life with that of an outlaw; a little cliché’d but not bad. ‘Mason Jar’ has a folky Americana feel and is quite pleasant.
Unsubtle in every respect , ‘Old Man Jones’ is a loud Southern rocker about undisciplined children inevitably growing up as criminals and addicts, which seems a bit extreme.

This album is something of a mixed bag, but there are some very strong tracks. It’s worth checking out to see if it appeals to you.

Grade: B-

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