The Matt Burke Band: Pretty Close to Very Good – Album Review
Acoustic rock outfit The Matt Burke Band includes Matt Burke (obviously) on Rhythm Guitar and Vocals and his counterpart Brue Baker on lead guitar. For their 2010 debut “Pretty Close to Very Good” they enlisted Dan Milligan (Drums) and Gordy Cushman (Bass). Interestingly, Matt lives in Illinois and has recorded his parts at Ultraviolet Lounge Studios, whilst Brue lives in Florida and recorded his contributions at Tropical Studios in Daytona Beach.
The album starts off with a raucous party piece called “The Weekend War”. This very commercial and catchy ditty was quite unexpected. Although the acoustic strumming provides much of the feel-good factor, it’s the steel drum melody that lifts this song and the “hey mamma hey” lyrics in the chorus provides an apt sing-along hook… The rest of lyrics are well thought out and carry some substance giving this song all the right ingredients for a perfect opener. The second track “One Step at a time” carries on the vibe with a similar tempo. The chord arrangements in the chorus of this song work really well together and with Burke slipping into falsetto here and there, it adequately shows off his vocal prowess. This is a great mood song with an excellent groove. The third track “Cover to Cover” starts off in the same key and with a similar tempo and at first I thought it was part of track two, fortunately, by the chorus the rhythm section steps it up a gear and takes us further away. By the fourth song “Superstar” the band have firmly established their place in the acoustic rock genre. Baker’s lead guitar really shines throughout this song, adding warmth and colour to the end. The fifth song is a real nostalgia trip with Burke singing about his first high school crush. There is superb emotion in this song sat on top of some amazing rhythm work, with the most sublime groove. Burkes voice is uncannily like Tracey Chapman here, and it made me wonder if Chapman is one of his influence? “Fading Faces” is yet another nostalgia trip back to school days. This is a beautiful laid back funk groove with lots of colour and shape, putting me in mind of the Chili Peppers, especially when Burkes voice goes into lo-fi mode in the chorus. “Another sad song” is the penultimate track and whilst the sentiment and emotion here is exquisite, the band are expertly stepping things down for the ending of the album. This is very well thought out. Again Burke’s voice is sounding much like Chapman’s and the style of the arrangement is also reminiscent of the songstress.
Whilst every track on this album is expertly crafted and virtually flawless, there is little originality in what the band are offering. Each song has hooks and features that give them character and substance, so it is very entertaining and a real pleasure to listen to, but it would be nice for the guys to take a few risks and try an introduce something somewhere that we haven’t heard before. We know they can play, and they are obviously very confident and established musicians – this is the perfect time to develop their style into some un-chartered territory and create dangerously!
Overall this is a superb album, almost flawless in its production. It is a breath of fresh air to listen to an album that hasn’t had its levels butchered to death in the mastering studio! It makes it so much more inviting to put on ‘repeat’, so hats off to Matthew Grey for not falling foul of the loudness wars.
The Matt Burke Band are an unquestionably force to be reckoned with and if they can continue writing and developing their craft, improving on this album, then only great things lie ahead. I will be listening to this CD for a long time to come, and I’ll certainly be keeping a look out for their next album.
This album review was written by Neil Thomas. For the latest reviews of the best indie bands, check out Indie Music Digest.