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Music Review: Matthew Gair – Barefoot Sublime

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A while ago in a vain attempt to keep myself out of trouble I bought yet more CDs. I got on a site, browsed around and chose them randomly. Some attracted me because I liked the cover, or the name, or the ten second sound bite that that was meant to encourage people like me to part with my ill-gotten gains.

Fortunately, when they arrived, I found that I had somehow stumbled upon a little gem. Matthew Gair’s album And She Whispered I Told You So has been played in chez Eurorock many times since. This is not an insignificant fact as I am fortunate enough to possess enough CDs to rebuild the Berlin Wall, not that I’d want to, of course, but you get the point.

Included on this album, which was released in 2007, was a collection of nicely written, refreshing acoustic songs, with some engaging lyrics that radiated loads of personality.

I dug around and found that Matthew lives in Cape Town, South Africa. He had been in several bands before, had spent time in the UK in London, and this had been his first solo album. In amongst the excellent collection of songs was a track called “Assisi”. I loved its message, its genuine honesty, its fireside feeling of intimacy that glowed from the performance.

Recently, I saw that Matthew Gair had released another album, Aeroplanes And Evil Brains, and a downloadable single “Barefoot Sublime”. The latter is a good place to start to explore this guy’s music. It is music that has already seen him gain a quickly growing reputation and his aim for 50,000 people to download this track is justifiably picking up momentum.

This time I got hold of both deliberately. Sure enough, the songs on this new album had a similar affect. Matthew has an easy uncomplicated style, writes engaging lyrics, neat guitar and vocals, and some well written songs.

Aeroplanes And Evil Brains, which is also available in its entirety or as separate tracks on iTunes and was mixed by Matt himself, kicks off with the hazy lazy “Glow Worm”. Meanwhile, “Smell That Song”, and “Winter’s Afternoon” all justify my earlier faith in him by further illustrating his satisfyingly honest and engaging song writing style.

The unashamed love song that is “The First Time”, came about, he tells me, because, “my fiancée and I dance to completely different rhythms. We look ridiculous, she on the off beat and me on the beat. So I thought maybe our hearts beat at different times, and then maybe they fill each other out, like a continuous beat. Like two puzzle pieces!”

A nice story behind this track has him telling me, “it was recorded through one of Bob Dylan’s old pre-amps from a studio in the paramount lot in LA and I think was also Frank Zappa’s. That was a very cool thing to find out!”

For me the real gem on this album is “My Voice And Me”, a hauntingly beautiful song with such a strong sense of intimacy that it is feels as if you are peering into a basement window watching the guy at work from the pavement above. The strength of this is continued with “Ebb And Flow” a song of how love does exactly what the song title says.

Aeroplanes And Evil Brains closes with “The Refrigerator Song” a fun sounding track with a little twist that nudges it in a slightly darker direction. There is a clever use of a “glue me”, “gloomy” coupling in the bridge which works, as does the way the album abruptly stops.

Mixing the album proved to be something of a challenge. He told me, “the decision to mix it myself was a hard one, financial constraint was a huge factor, and I really wanted to learn how to do it. I paid very close attention to what the engineer, Richard Harriman, was doing on the first album. I watched how he used compression, eq, and reverb. Then when I had some more songs I tried to put what I had learned into practice. It was so much harder than it looked!”

However, the results speak for themselves and will prove to be a valuable addition to his already impressive list of talents. "Barefoot Sublime" is available from various sites such as iTunes (US and UK), amiestreet, CD Baby, and very shortly will be on Amazon. Hopefully it will help spread the word for a musician I am more than glad to have stumbled across.

Have a listen yourself by calling in on Matthew Gair’s official website or MySpace page.

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About Jeff Perkins