Review: Rich Mattson Makes His Mark on Striking New Release

Rich Mattson & The North Stars/Out There!!/Sparta Sound
3.5 Out Of Five Stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Singer, songwriter, band leader, and producer, Rich Mattson makes a striking impression on his latest LP, the tellingly-titled, Out There!! Recorded in tandem with his erstwhile combo, The North Stars, it’s an aggressive effort that starts with a full flourish courtesy of the opening track “Greetings From the Island of Guitars,” and continues unabated.

In fact, if there was any doubt about Mattson’s dexterity and determination, it quickly dissipated on the songs that follow. “Trepidation” and “Apex” rock relentlessly, each an exhilarating display of energy and exuberance. Not surprisingly, Mattson’s earlier designs as an indie auteur have left an indelible impression on his music as he’s ventured forward, even as he’s managed to maintain a specific musical mantra of his very own.

Still, the band manages to veer away from its flash and frenzy at various intervals. “Tired Yet” comes across as Bowie-Esque in a way, its mannered melody recalling the Thin White Duke’s knack for precision and posturing. Likewise, “No More Fighting” is as emphatic as its name suggests, making a clear call for calm and civility to anyone who is willing to listen. The relentless riffing drive the point home for those that may tend to ignore the message in the midst of their own tenacity.

Mattson is an expressive artist, and likewise, on a song such as “All Hallow’s Eve,” he paints a descriptive portrait of a particularly harrowing Halloween.

My God it’s a full moon Halloween, it’s a blue moon Halloween
The wind id howling’ the snow is blown’ ain’t nobody to trick or treat
Just sitting round watching a movie

“In My Cave” follows suit, a description of a day best suited to doing nothing more than lying about and contemplating one’s lack of direction and determination, such as it is on an otherwise uneventful afternoon.

Happily, Mattson isn’t mired in apathy. The south-of-the-border narrative “Wild Hutch Crutch” makes for an intriguing diversion, just as the solid and stoic “Look on The Bright Side” brings the optimism full circle. Yes, Out There!! may seem like it is in fact out there at times, but happily, Mattson maintains full control throughout.

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