I’ll start by saying I’ve had a particularly difficult time writing my review of Matthew Davies’ solo album Wish Peak. Simply stated, it’s a fantastic album from possibly one of the best songwriters I’ve heard doing his or her thing lately. The fact that this entire album appears to have been recorded by Matthew in his spare time up in his attic playing each part completely by himself seems mind –boggling to me. His work here is truly inspired. If that’s enough for you to skip my review and go directly to the links below to listen for yourself, please feel free to do so. Judge for yourself the truth of my statements. If you want more, you’re welcome to keep reading.
Let me try to explain why I think this review was so difficult for me to write upon further reflection. I listened to the first minute of the first song “People” and had to hit pause. I stopped. I wasn’t sure what to make of what I just heard. “Who does this guy think he is?” I thought to myself. It’s no secret that I’m a HUGE Bob Dylan fan. I own nearly every one of his records (I’ve at least heard them all of course). I’ve had stretches of my life when Dylan was the ONLY thing I could listen to. Suffice it to say I can be a bit obsessive and even defensive regarding Dylan and his music. The first minute of Matthew Davies’ “People” with its simple melodic electric guitar, bouncy bass, strumming acoustic guitar rhythms, subtle tambourine on the 2 and 4, and punchy harmonica blowing a country/folk melody made me immediately skeptical of Matthew and what he was doing. And the voice… holy shit, if that ain’t right out of New Morning era “back-to-form” yet this time road-worn matured nasally Dylan. Davies begins “It’s a dying art, and it’s awfully hard, just living day to day… from the day you first stand, you’re supposed to make plans, it’s off to work and drag your chains… some people go with Jesus, some people put their faith in books, some people give and give, some of us are just common crooks… some people chase after love, some people chase after gold, but I’ll take my chances out on the open road.” Oh yes he did. And did I mention the slight delayed delivery at the end of the phrase between “open” and “road?” Yeah… yeah… I know… who does he think he is?
I took a break, stepped out of the room, got myself one more cup of coffee for the road (see what I did there?), then sat back down and listened to the whole album start to finish. This was about a month or so ago, and I’ve been listening to this album nearly every day since. Let me assure you Matthew Davies is no cheap imitator. Listen carefully and there’s no doubt Dylan’s had a big influence, but like anyone who truly loves Dylan, we all find our way listening to all the folk, blues, country, jazz, and rock n roll that influenced him. Davies continues down his own path taking the primitive building blocks of the poetic Northern Mid-West of Americana and taking it further on up the road. I like everything about this album, yet certain songs stand out to me as exemplary instances of Davies capturing those essential nuggets from life’s trials and tribulations. There’s the spooky yet reassuring “Nature’s Baptism.” The oddly prescient “Nicole (leave your guns at home),” which obviously points to the seemingly unending cyclical nature of violence. Davies reminds us “if you’ve got anger in your soul, let it go, don’t let it grow.” My personal favorite “Darker Side of Life” leaves me in awe every time I listen. I love “Super Jealous” too with its raw bluesy jangly grit. However, honestly, there’s not a dud on this album. Each song is worth the price of admission. So go check it out for yourself.
Follow this link to the website and click the Music tab to stream or download the songs “People” and “Super Jealous” right now off Wish Peak. The full album will be available when released on January, 11th.
Also, I highly recommend you go searching Matthew Davies’ back catalog via bandcamp to listen to and hopefully buy Highway Specific and Black Phone Mouthpiece.
Matthew Davies tours with and plays with his band The Thriftones, and I believe they’ll have a debut “band” album out soon too, so keep an eye out.