You Can’t Fight Love
3 out of 5 stars
This is singer/songwriter Mike Mattison’s first solo album, but he is an established journeyman with his vocal work as part of the original Derek Trucks Band, the Tedeschi-Trucks Band that evolved from that and with guitarist Paul Olsen in the group Scrapomatic. Not surprisingly, members of those outfits are called in to assist Mattison on these dozen soul inflected tracks. Since all of Scrapomatic backs him here, this is a solo project in name only, but Mattison is clearly the star.
The singer wrote or co-composed all but a handful of tracks and the difference in approach to these tunes, as opposed to the other acts he is a part of, is immediately obvious. More pop/R&B than the expansive, often jam oriented Tedeschi-Trucks outfit and less winding, rootsy and swampy than Scrapomatic, these songs go down easy but still have plenty of kick. Selections like “Piece of Clay” and the opening Al Green/Hi label inspired title track take their cues from the finest 60s soul. The recording and Mattison’s production is crisp, tight and immediate, displaying his distinctive sandpaper and honey vocals out front where they belong.
The singer shifts gears into country for the oddly titled “Good Luck Automated Car Crash” completed with fiddle and on an imaginatively rearranged version of the Buzzcock’s punk-pop hit “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays,” perhaps the first time many listeners will be able to understand its lyrics once they are removed from the original’s jittery rendition. Mattison taps deep blues for a cover of Charlie Patton’s gospel “Going Home” that oddly fades out just as the horns are working into a serious groove. He revives “Midnight in Harlem,” already sung by Susan Tedeschi on her and husband Trucks’ Revelator album, bringing a more religious feel to it. Mattison gets good and funky on the tough “Gimme Your Love” and shifts into falsetto on the bridge of the instantly hummable, pop leaning “That Makes Two of Us.”
It’s clear from this long time coming “debut” that Mattison has the talent, ambition and maturity to move out front and be recognized under his own name. Its success can be attributed to the substantial and impressive work he has done in preparation and one hopes this is the start of a long, well deserved career in the spotlight.