It has been a few years now since I first came across Matt Joe Gow, a proud Dunedin son who now lives in Melbourne. Since then, I have reviewed all three of his albums, and have managed to see him twice on his solo jaunts to New Zealand and will soon be catching him again for the third time. When I look at Matt I always think of Paul Rodgers (Free), and like Rodgers he has a voice perfectly suited for his musical style with loads of breadth and depth but while Rodgers was steeped in the blues, for Matt is all about country. IN many ways this is a stripped back but emotionally powerful album, as during this period not only were there lockdowns (Melbourne was at one point the most locked-down city in the world) but Matt lost his much loved mother during this process, all of which made a huge impact on him.
There is no studio trickery here, and at the heart of it is Matt singing and accompanying himself on his acoustic, with some additional instruments being added where the time is right. His band The Dead Leaves, Andrew Pollock (guitar), Robin Murphy (bass), Daniel Brates (drums), Katya Harrop (percussion) and Dave Evans (Hammond organ) all have an important part to play throughout, while Matt’s harmonica is also used to great effect. Even though his last album, 2018’s ‘Break, Rattle and Roll’ was also self-produced and released, it received wide acclaim and accolades including the Music Victoria Award for Best Country/Americana Album Of The Year. This is surely going to be greeted in a similar manner as it is laid-back and easy to listen to on the very first time of playing while also containing gravitas which means the listener knows there is always more to discover and can connect with it on an emotional level. This is alt country at its very best, and no-one would ever imagine it had not come out of Tennessee, but instead is from Otago in New Zealand. It is an incredibly honest album, and one which all fans of this style of music would do well to discover.