Time Well Spent
The Title Says It All
I don’t know why, but I have a delectably soft spot for music from Northern Ireland; as there’s always something very sensitive and usually inspirational about it; regardless of the genre.
Matt McGinn is a case in point; a friend of a friend who got in touch a few years ago and is now one of my favourite singer-songwriters whos’ songs have evolved over the years, while tackling some very difficult issues, yet making every song eminently listenable regardless of subject matter.
If only he came from New York or Chicago he’d be a Star.
Enough! Let’s talk about his new album.
Like everyone else these days TIME WELL SPENT is a pandemic/lockdown album. The songs themselves were written pre-Covid; but Matt has used the forced home imprisonment to tweek and develop the songs; then using modern technology to bring in friends and fellow musicians to flesh out various missives in a way he’s not necessarily known for.
The first song out of the bag is the winsome Annie (Many Moons Ago); a break up song of sorts as the man looks back on a lover that left him with an incurably broken heart. Possibly biographical and probably from his imagination; this song is a stunner beyond belief; and as Niamh Dunne’s haunting fiddle plays in the background, contains the breathtakingly raw lines:
“I had to pass our corner four times a day
I’ve moved back in with folks now
and Mother she says ‘hey’
I thought I heard her say
I hope she slowly burns in Hell!”
I’m not going to spoil the twist in the last verse btw!
The title track Time Well Spent, a duet with Aoife Scott follows; takes the listener on a delightfully dark stroll through the shadows of their love affair of a different hue; and contains some stunning viola from Eliza Carthy MBE.
Then; just as you are sitting comfortably the band kicks in …… with a vengeance on Something; which IMHO owes a nod and a wink to Energy Orchard; as does Hands Off My Summer, and I keep my fingers crossed that I will one day witness McGinn and Friends perform these two songs especially, in this exact guise.
Presumably the time spent in solitary confinement got the writer to thinking about people and events in his past; which I guess where the extraordinary Me & Tommy comes from; as well as Kinnahalla too; which is probably the nearest to a Traditional Irish Folk Song here.
There are certainly emotional highs and lows here; which is what I’ve come to expect from Matt McGinn; and that brings me to what has become my Favourite Song on a rather excellent LP; Woman.
The opening verse; sung in McGinn’s slow brogue, opens a door to something of a challenging song ….. but one that should and will touch the hearts of everyone who hears it:
“It’s always the woman
to have and to hold;
Better than riches
Rarer than gold.”
For some reason; probably because he’s from just down the road I found myself imagining Van Morrison singing this song; although I doubt he can inhabit the the story in quite the same way that Matt does; and btw I love the crazy sub-psychedelic guitar/violin outro to fade.
Then the album comes to a close with the something of a pub sing-along and possibly Sgt. Pepper inspired (?) Slide Out of View; which could easily find itself being included in some kind of film or TV drama if I’m not mistaken.
There’s an obvious charm to this album; just as you’d expect; but peel away the veneer and these are a collection of back to the bone observations using the light and shade of one man’s life that the majority of us can still relate to in one way or another.
Released January 1st 2022
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