Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Nothing to Lose, Something to Post
Update re "Looks like my writing gig was a fairweather stin): Well, I eat my words. Published in September 15 paper.
Artist: Mat Kearney
Album: Nothing Left To Lose
Review Rating: 7 out of 10
By Stephanie Kiernan
Plucked from the line of his latest album and single, Nothing Left to Lose, Mat Kearney summarizes his route to Nashville, “To a kid from Oregon by way of California”. More precisely, Kearney was born and raised in “The World’s Greatest City for the Arts and Outdoors”, as per Eugene’s official slogan. That seems to be the key ingredient for his artistic tendencies, turning to everything from painting and photography to writing poetry and screenplays. He played soccer and studied Literature at California’s Chico State University before setting up camp in Nashville. In the daunting presence of the Nashville talent scene, rather than discouragement, Kearney found the muse and motivation to refine and hone his own music.
Nothing Left To Lose, extracts a whole seven songs from his debut album “Bullet”, sifting them through a more sophisticated and ambitious venture. The album reveals a youthful and original talent in this singer-songwriter with rhyming tales and spoken verse that give emphasis to an unusual blend of urban folk and hip-hop. Vocally you’ll pick up Chris Martin and perhaps Jack Johnson; but that’s not to take away from Kearney’s own particular sound. His live performances prove his authentic vocal flair beside a talent for playing the piano, guitar and harmonica.
“Undeniable”, “Crashing Down” and of course title track “Nothing Left to Lose” are sure winner that pipe up with optimism, strong pop guitar backing and of his clean vocals. The album has an earthiness to it, most of the songs hinged by spoken verse, exposing the artist’s sensitivity toward the written word. He’s not quite Leonard Cohen, but the kid’s got genuine ability and keen musical influences as posted on his website’s journal page, citing current playlists that include Sujan Stevens, Patty Griffin, Built To Spill, Lucinda Williams, Neko Case, Billie Holiday and Johnny Cash.
Although it’s not necessary to assign music to a specific form or genre, but it is difficult to pin down Mat Kearney, because of the “hip hop” spoken verse cast through most of his music. It may be a turn off for some and I’m more inclined to think that his music hits a younger demographic. I would hope if you’re looking for something new in pop, that you’ll give Mat Kearney a chance. Be surprised by the album. It’s sure to renew your faith in the new generation of musicians.