Review on All About Jazz.com

Matthews Southern Comfort: Like A Radio

By DOUG COLLETTE

It’s been nearly half a century since the initial Matthews Southern Comfort album, and Like A Radio is the first in nearly a decade, a bonafide testament to the timeless quality of its namesake’s best work (not mention how it predated today’s Americana). Since his days in Fairport Convention, continuing into solo work that carried him to collaborations with Michael Nesmith and more pop-oriented work into the Nineties, Iain, nee Ian, Matthews has charted his own course as an artist, sufficiently self-motivated to know when pursue his own independent course, yet equally willing and able to collaborate as he does here.

On a dozen artfully-sequenced tracks, multi-instrumentalist Bart Jan Baartmans, keyboardist Bart de Win and singer/songwriter Eric Devries coalesce with the leader to replicate the sound of the original band, encapsulated by their famed rendition of Joni Mitchell’s 1970 tuned, “Woodstock.” This stylistic resemblance further reaffirmed with three additional remakes from earlier MSC releases (including James Taylor’s “Something in the Way She Moves”) on an expanded CD that runs over sixty-minutes , this folk-rooted, vocal harmony-laden approach is a far cry from the jazz-oriented, often baroque leanings of Matthews’ most recent solo endeavors.

The photo of the group’s musical instruments on the front cover of this LP may signal the irony of its title, yet in keeping with Iain’s down-to-earth demeanor, it is far more apropos of the natural affinity for each other these four core musicians display in writing, singing and playing here. Produced by Baartmans, this album is no exercise in nostalgia, as evinced by the way Matthews and company touch upon aspects of modern global culture on “The Thought Police:” they couch this topicality in a sparkling but soft mix of delicate singing and the twinkling of acoustic guitars that offer the barest hint of country music.

The glowing electric piano very effectively contrasts those textures, an effect continued in the sly titlesong; here is where it becomes apparent Like A Radio is an album in which to become deeply immersed for the sound quality alone, despite the fact there are no solos much longer than the acoustic piano there. Matthews Southern Comfort circa 2018 takes a nuanced, insinuating approach, and the bandleader’s own voice is fundamental to that inviting air, even when the material at hand is as potentially off-putting as “The Age of Isolation.”

Yet the dispassionate thinking at the root of that song, like the bulk of this collaboratively-composed material, signals the maturity of a group convinced that the passage of time has its advantages. As captured on this recording, the sound a is naturally warm, at once spare and lush (somehow) and those virtues, for some listeners, may camouflage an unflagging certainty of purpose evident within originals such as “Bits and Pieces.” Precious little here offers direct obeisance to roots as does the semi-reel “Crystals On the Glass,” but here as elsewhere, the comparative brevity of the track works in its favor.

And the wry sense of humor Matthews Southern Comfort displays during “Jive Pajamas” reaffirms the wisdom of this grouping, not mention its timely release. Over the course of time, Like A Radio should demonstrate a durability comparable to its predecessors (and so many of Mathew’s other work). But early listens to the record illuminate how gracefully its leader has aged; no longer the waif with the boyish countenance, there remains a dignity in Iain Matthews’ greying visage corresponding to the burnished instrumental and vocal strains that populate this record and render it so affecting.


Track Listing: The Thought Police; Like A Radio; The Age Of Isolation; Bits And Pieces; Darcy Farrow; Crystals On The Glass; Been Down So Long; Jive Pajamas; Phoenix Rising; To Love; Right As Rain; Chasing Rainbows; Bonus tracks: Something In The Way She Moves; A Heartless Night; Your Cake And Eat It.

Personnel: Iain Matthews: vocals, guitar; Bart Jan Baartmans: vocals, guitar, bass, drums: Bart de Win: vocals, keyboards; Eric De Vries: vocals, guitar, mandolin.

Title: Like A Radio | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Made In Germany Records

R&R review UK

And another review  ‘Like a Radio’ in UK Magazine R&R  Oz Hardwick writes:

“.. Though Iain Matthews is the only constant in this new line-up, his revival of the name signals a return, not some retro retread! The all Dutch band displays tasteful virtuosity throughout.. as with the first version of the band though ‘Like a Radio is all about the voices.. the material too is first rate.. these are songs to hold the listener with both lyrics and arrangements and with choruses that you find yourself humming days later..

Read more here: MSC-RnR review

Review! Pete Sargeant wrote @ Just listen to this..

Out of the blue and with a band of Dutch musicians whose grip on this artist’s feel for roots and folk music and vintage and modern Americana is eminently displayed here…a new album from Iain Matthews and the new Matthews Southern Comfort!
Fifteen new recordings, sounding fresh and well-realised. The group members are Bart Jan Baartmans on various guitars and related, keyboard man Bart De Win and Eric de Vries on acoustic guitar and singing. On the sleeve their portraits suggest they could play an artful pack of Amsterdam jewel thieves film if this doesn’t work out..just kidding, gentlemen…there’s a real folk craftsmen look about them. read more here.. Just Listen to this

Sjoerd Punter for Altcountryforum.nl

Wederopstanding Iain Matthews op zijn nieuwe album ‘Like A Radio’

In  1967 was Iain Matthews medeoprichter van Fairport Convention, een Britse band die het fletse folkgenre een update zou geven. Op de hitlijsten domineerden in die tijd flutartiesten zoals Engelbert Humperdinck, die in 1967 maar liefst drie keer een toptienhit had. De best verkochte plaat van dat jaar in Nederland was er een van de Heikrekels met als titel ‘Waarom heb je mij laten staan?’ Dat waren nog eens tijden. Gelukkig was er ook andere muziek, onder meer van Iain Matthews, die in 1969 Matthews Southern Comfort oprichtte en met deze band een wereldhit scoorde met ‘Woodstock’, een nummer van Joni Mitchell. Licht te verteren, mooi gezongen muziek met een fluwelen bodem. In 1970 kwam er eind aan Matthews Southern Comfort. Dertig jaar later verhuisde Matthews, inmiddels low profile, naar Limburg. Hij trouwde met een Limburgse en kreeg een prachtige dochter, Luca-Mae, die nu twaalf is. In 2010 was er een doorstart van Matthews Southern Comfort met een Brits-Nederlandse bezetting. Dat leidde niet meteen tot commercieel succes, maar er was wel weer beweging in het muzikale leven van Matthews. Net als in 1984 besloot Matthews in 2014 dat de koek definitief op was, en net als in 1984 besloot hij daarna toch maar weer door te gaan. Met dit jaar als resultaat een prima nieuw album waar zo te zien flink in is geïnvesteerd door het Duitse label MIG. “Like a radio’, zoals het nieuwe album heet, is voorbeeldig geproduceerd en wordt uitgegeven met een fraai tekstboekje waar je geen vergrootglas voor nodig hebt. De release is op 23 februari.

Iain Matthews werkte al langer samen met de twee Brabantse allrounders BJ Baartmans (snaren) en Bart de Win (toetsen).  Op het nieuwe album is daar singer-songwriter Eric Devries erbij gekomen en dat is een duidelijke verbetering op vocaal gebied.  Heerlijke harmonieën wisselen elkaar af. Zo’n goede band had Matthews niet eerder. Op ‘Like a radio’ staan twaalf eigen nummers en drie covers. ‘Bits and pieces’ is tevens als single uitgebracht. Het is een nummer over het gevoel dat je er niet bij hoort en dus displaced bent. Het nummer werd vijftien jaar geleden geboren als ‘A Fool For You’ en belandde daarna op een EP van Plainsong, een van de andere projecten van Iain Matthews. “Ik had altijd al het gevoel dat dit nummer onvoltooid was”, licht Matthews toe. “Daarom heb ik de tekst flink bewerkt en het nummer een andere titel gegeven.” Ook ‘Darcy Farrow’, een nummer dat voorkomt op ‘Second Spring’ uit 1970, kreeg een nieuwe aanpak. ‘Like A Radio’ is tot stand gekomen in een democratisch proces met veel ruimte voor individuele inbreng. Het resultaat is een magnifieke plaat die je een paar keer moet beluisteren, om door de schoonheid heen te boren naar de diepere lagen. Het indrukwekkende openingsnummer ‘The Thought Police’ en ‘A Fearless Night’ schreef Matthews samen met het snarenwonder BJ Baartmans, tevens de producer van deze plaat. ‘Chasing Windows’ kwam tot stand in samenwerking met Bart de Win en ‘The Age Of Isolation’ was een coproductie met Eric Devries. Een hoogtepunt op deze plaat is het indringend gezongen ‘Right As Rain’ met een  tekst van Michael Fracasso.

Read here: www.altcountryforum.nl

Dai Jeffries wrote review for Folking.com..

Matthews Southern Comfort – that’s a name we haven’t heard for a while and, to be honest, I’m not sure why we’re hearing it now. If you remember the MSC that had their greatest hit with ‘Woodstock’ featuring Gordon Huntley’s pedal steel – this isn’t them. If you remember Iain’s first solo album featuring Britain’s folk-rock illuminati – no not them, either. Like A Radio is a damn good Iain Matthews solo album with three old tracks revisited – Second Spring’s sublime ‘Darcy Farrow’ (on piano this time) and ‘Something In The Way She Moves’ (a superb reinterpretation)  and Carole King’s ‘To Love’ which originally opened Later That Same Year. Plus a good band.

Iain certainly isn’t looking back here. He’s supported by three Dutch musicians: multi-instrumentalist Bart Jan Baartmans, who also co-produced, Bart de Win on keys and acoustic guitarist Eric Devries. There is a resonator guitar but not a pedal steel in sight. These are new Matthews song, often written with recent collaborators, Clive Gregson, Egbert Derix, and his three bandmates.

There are knowing touches like the quote from ‘Good Vibrations’ in ‘Chasing Rainbows’, an anthem to California co-written with de Win but for the most part these songs concern modern issues and are written in modern terms. The line “working the room like a bitch in heat” in ‘A Heartless Night’ certainly attracted my attention. The opener, ‘The Thought Police’, built on a simple acoustic guitar with a plethora of strange things, is a defiant individual’s stance in the post-truth surveillance society and Iain returns to the vicissitudes of modern life in ‘The Age Of Isolation’.

There seems to be a number of toxic relationships beginning with the title track but Iain has lost none of his melodic and lyrical skill. ‘Bits And Pieces’ matches a confoundedly catchy melody to clever words and ‘Been Down So Long’ begins with the effect of Cortez’ arrival on the indigenous people: “we’ve been down so long it looks like up to me”.

As I said, Like A Radio is a good damn Iain Matthews album and Baartmans’ electric guitar does echo the band of the 70s while de Win’s keyboards bring a new sound. While Iain looks a touch haggard in his cover photo his voice has lost none of its power, just matured like a fine wine and those harmonies are as sweet as ever.

Dai Jeffries