Matt Owens
Whiskey & Orchids
Urby Records

Reflective, Powerful and Heartfelt Folk that Occasionally Rocks.

Regular readers will know by now how much I like an eye-catching cover on my albums; and this one is so lovely I’d like it framed on the bedroom wall.
Enough about my decorating tips, onward to the music!
When it first arrived, all I knew about this album was that it was Matt Owens’ solo debut but a cursory look at the track listing and ‘artistes involved’ puzzled me…… especially the inclusion of Thea Gilmore, Michael Blair and Friend of RMHQ Sir Robert Vincent.
Hmm, something suspicious here, methinks.
Then a little extra research unearthed the fact that Matt Owens was actually the singer in Noah and The Whale! Not a band I actually know; but I certainly know of them.
Thankfully, because of my ignorance this won’t and can’t be a ‘compare and contrast’ review…… just me talking about what I hear and how it makes me feel.
There’s a delightfully warm majesty to opening track Lay Down Honey which lends itself to the commercial end of Indie-Folk (if such a thing exists) and has a pedal-steel sliding in and out of the big ole backing.
I probably first fell in love with this album via second track Little Tornado. A rather fine and wordy love song with very, very clever imagery, about a wild and strong willed young woman; presumably the singers partner (?) but reminded me of a couple of women in my own life.
For a singer-songwriter slash Folk album; there’s a big sound here via Nigel Stonier and Seadna McPhail’s production and mixing; which adds extra sparkle and life to relatively simple songs like the charming Piano at the Greyhound, American Girls in London and the subtly passionate title track, Whiskey and Orchids.
Rob Vincent makes two guest appearances; first on Too Far Gone, another complicated and slightly twisted song of love and desire; and the other is one of two dark songs about Christmas time. This one; One Fuck of a Year will appeal to many of us who get tangled in the false bonhomie that abounds; when not everything around us is really shiny and rainbowish. Owens slides in some accurately sharp observations in every single line …… not one for Radio 2 by any means; but a contender for Song of the Year!
Christmas Eve follows a similar starkly lit path; but is a lot more personal and come from the dark recesses of Owen’s battered heart.
Choosing a Favourite Song for you hasn’t been easy (it very rarely is) but I’m going to toss a coin between two that use ‘sports’ as a metaphor.
In Match Day Matt compares being in a band to supporting your football team;
“She hates me going
Gets me through the week
Seems I’m fighting all
For this losing streak
When you get that feeling
I should just stick to dreaming”

It’s very maudlin, but very clever too and certainly tugs on the old heartstrings.
This album couldn’t close with anything finer than Last Play of The Day, a haunting story of growing old that verges on poetry set to music. So, I’m going for the latter as my Favourite Track on this sublime album.
It’s kind odd and perversely funny ‘discovering’ Matt Owens so late into his career; but this sounds and feels like a whole new chapter for him……… and hopefully an even more succesful one.

Released February 1st 2019

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