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Dan Matz | Carry Me Over (Amish)
As the brains behind The Birdwatcher and as a fifty per cent stakeholder in the recently rejuvenated Windsor For The Derby (the latter's last long-player - 'The Emotional Rescue LP' - being amongst this scribe's top ten of 2002), Dan Matz has certainly found a rich seam in the already fertile mines of the post-folk scene. A student of the Fahey/Grubbs/Pajo/Pullman school of angular electro-acoustic sound melding, Matz's rustic reinventions have served him well in recent years. Yet whereas his two aforementioned projects have relied heavily on a cast of collaborators and a sizeable amount of studio trickery, this latest Matz-affiliated album - the first to bear just his own name - is a stripped-down near-solo effort.
However, as Matz's past pedigree suggests, 'Carry Me Over' is far from being a run-of-the-mill singer-songwriter affair. Low-key it maybe, but low on inspiration or individuality it certainly isn't. Calling in the services of sole musical assistant Anna Neighbor (keyboards/vocals), 'Carry Me Over' is a sumptuous delicacy for those who like their Americana to be wholesome and home-cooked. The opening title-track sets the scene beautifully with chiming dulcimers, wheezing harmonicas and interloping harmonies, whereas the doomy piano chords, flickering guitars and military drums of Juniper provide an eerie counterpoint. The meticulous acoustic picking on the instrumental Rice Road Ramble offers up a moment of true calm and comfort before graciously gliding into the spooky multi-tracked a cappella vocals that steer Swing Her Around.
Elsewhere, the slowly entwining plugged and unplugged guitar figures of Bearcat Blues offer the record's only moment of real decibel disturbance. But it's the gorgeous former single, The Ballad Of John Edward Harley, that truly cements together the album's soul-tugging mix of gentility and gravitas. The song really gives Matz room to breath as a singer, allowing him to orbit the same sphere of excellence as Mark Kozelek's recent solo output and to roam the same realm of indecent beauty Jim O'Rourke found on his classic 'Halfway To A Threeway' EP. So whatever they're putting in the New York State water supply these days certainly isn't contaminating any creative impulses, far from it. A bewitching little treasure all told.
CWAS #13 - Autumn 2003