Halfway Home By Morning
True North Records/MGM
Canadian Matt Andersen is a big man with a big voice and going on this collection of 13 songs he’s also got a big heart. Whether it’s singing devotional love songs or conveying the pain of loss, he invests heavy emotion and a believable sincerity in his voice.
At his core Andersen is a soulful blues singer but he doesn’t necessarily sing the blues. He’s adept at shapeshifting between straight soul, country, and a funkier New Orleans feel (‘Free Man’, ‘Gasoline’) – sometime blending all three. Where he’s best it’s during the quieter moments where his voice takes centre-stage. ‘Give Me Some Light’ plays with melody over an organ groove, like a rare outtake from The Band. ‘Better Than You Want’ adds horns and some wonderful gospel backing vocals and though it’s a relatively upbeat song, the focus is still firmly on Andersen’s singing.
Lyrically Andersen doesn’t break any new ground. These are tried and true tales of confessional heartache and optimistic self-improvement. At times cliche rears its ugly head but he also takes a swing at environmental issues on ‘Gasoline’ without getting too sanctimonious or preachy. One of his best lines is “If you were my first love you would’ve been my last” on ‘Been My Last’. It’s an honest love song that deals with mistakes and is a full-hearted commitment to a lover over soaring pedal steel and fine playing from his band who are a standout right across the album.
Though Halfway Home By Morning would have been a tighter and more impactful record if it was ten minutes shorter and a little more abstraction was built into the lyrics to create more of a cosmic left-of-centre appeal, it’s still a strong album that showcases Andersen’s heart-on-sleeve songwriting and full-throated, soulful and versatile voice.