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VCV Matthew Stubbs – “Sleepy Eyes”

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So I probably did Matt a massive disservice in turning his "Tube Top Temptation" into a soundtrack for one of those Porky's films from the '80s, causing you not to understand just what a great, grooving little number it is.  I'd like to make that up to him by putting on display another side of his musical and compositional talents, the tender soul ballad "Sleepy Eyes."

One of Stubbs' great strengths as a guitar player is his efficiency, something he also makes a part of his compositions.  "Sleepy Eyes" is gentle but blunt, forgoing a long introduction that segues into the main melodic passage.  His playing stays largely in the background, blending chords with the rhythm and connecting the phrases created by the horn section.  Sax Gordon leads them on tenor, joined by Scott Aruda on trumpet.

It's a bold statement to put your name on an album and have the cover depict you carrying a guitar in its case yet be willing to write songs that downplay that very component.  The guitar serves the song rather than the greed or ego of the player.  The song serves the mood and the muse.  "Sleepy Eyes" sounds less like the lullaby its title might imply and more like a song you might slow dance to, your eyes falling to half mast as you think about how lucky you are to be connected so closely to that one person interlocked with you. It could be about that moment just before you pass out.  It may be about none of the above.  "Sleepy Eyes" doesn't proclaim its intentions in bold melodic form, instead creating an atmosphere and ambiance that relies on chords and textures more than precisely articulated phrases.

Modern blues is sometimes blasted for its lack of subtlety and nuance.  Stubbs' appreciation for soul and roots broadens his sonic and compositional palette, allowing him to put both to effective use.  There's a lesson in that.

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