Mike Mattison | Afterglow | (Landslide)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Those who think they know what to expect from singer/songwriter Mike Mattison through either of his other projects (featured vocalist with the Tedeschi Trucks Band or co-frontman in long time swamp/blues Scrapomatic outfit) may be surprised by the music on his second solo album. Inspired to compose on a guitar gifted to him by Derek Trucks, Mattison dives into an acoustic singer/songwriter groove for the majority of Afterglow.
The stripped down, predominantly unplugged approach is the result of recording with a core duo –drummer/co-producer Tyler Greenwell and guitarist Dave Yoke—in the former’s garage. Bass from Frahner Joseph (of Atlanta band Delta Moon), extra guitar from Mattison’s Scrapomatic cohort Paul Olsen, and even keyboards from the late Kofi Burbridge was added later. The result is a set of mostly folk/country mid-tempo strummers driven by Mattison’s gritty, soulful vocals and songs that clearly wouldn’t fit into the catalogs of either Scrapomatic or TTB. The overall rustic groove is even different than his 2014 solo debut, which dug a little deeper into Mattison’s R&B side.
The singer/songwriter taps into Americana on tunes like the opening strummy murder ballad “Charlie Idaho” (derived from a story in Alan Lomax’s The Land Where Blues was Born book) and the title track, the set’s most country oriented tune about the protagonist leaving his onetime lover. He rocks out with the twangy mid-tempo “Kiss You Where You Live” that sounds like something the Replacements might have recorded circa Don’t Tell a Soul and nails a psychedelic blues groove for the ominous “I Was Wrong.”
A few tracks don’t go anywhere like the shouted verses from backing singers in “On Pontchartrain.” But when Mattison emphasizes his soul sensations with a Prince-styled falsetto on the retro 70s ballad “I Really Miss You” that seems like a great lost Al Green tune, you get a packed dose of the superb vocal talents he displays nightly with TTB.
There aren’t many artists fortunate enough to have not one but three viable outlets for their talents. Mike Mattison is too creatively driven to stick with only a few. That allows him to follow his muse into the music on Afterglow, reflecting a side of his persona that sounds like little he has previously released but retains the emotional, rootsy underpinnings that stamp everything he does.