Voice, acoustic guitar and harmonica mark Wellington’s Matt Hay out as a traditionalist of the modern blues idiom. In what is his second album (2007’s ‘Inside Stories’ was evidently more alt-country / Americana) he handles each with low key aplomb. Warm and natural recording courtesy of Andrew Downes results in a thoroughly recommendable album of a dozen musically varied ‘everyman’ blues/country songs.
Hay’s chosen subject matter is ordinary stuff, ‘a balladeer from the ‘burbs’ indeed. His voice holds a hint of gravelly lonesomeness and though hardly dynamic, with the aid of keyboardist Clint Meech and mandolin player Phil Hope both adding BVs, proves plenty engaging.
On the swampy and loping High Roller, he sounds Barry Saunders-like. I Won’t Let You Down is a loping John Hiatt and in Too Much To Ask, where he pushes the upper registers, it’s very ‘Unplugged’ Eric Clapton – perhaps the most ready reference for this album’s overall tone. All aided and enhanced with simple lyrics and fluid choruses that effortlessly stick in the consciousness.
Self-produced, the album was actually recorded back in 2016. Delia Shanley adds drums/percussion while George Barris provides beautifully toned supportive bass across the well-named ‘Something Blue’.
The relatively upbeat Ain’t Gonna Worry closes things out with a glass of cherry wine and an optimistic note, “Oh how we laugh as we drink and we sing.” Certainly, Matt Hay needn’t worry that his latest songs/album doesn’t stand scrutiny – being so understated they perhaps benefit from it – otherwise risking being undeservedly lost to the conversations they will sweetly backdrop.
The apparently effortless expertise on show here really warrants listeners’ attention.