Music Review: Matthew Hornell - Have It All

This rich-voiced Newfoundlander is always a joy to hear sing, with songs deep in emotion and strong in story-telling. Album #2 sees him transplanted to the mainland, and teaming up with roots-grass musicians, sympathetic to this collection of powerful, timeless tunes. It's Western-epic in tone, with the feel of something big and sad behind it, although there's no huge concept hitting you over the head. But Hornell's been affected by loss, and change, and that seems to be at the core of the material.

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There's a big group of players filling out the acoustic sounds, with ghostly steel dropping in, lovely piano, and excellent backing vocals from Jennah Barry, herself a rising East Coast artist. Touches of honky-tonk, Western, old folk, and ballads make up most of the songs, although there's even a sprightly Irish instrumental with pipes and fiddle. Crimes is one of the story-telling numbers, although it's a mystery what it's about, from the lyrics. The language is what matters, with its 19th century feel; "When this first started there was more than reason to believe/despite the wreckage we may harbour light". The way to enjoy them is not to focus on the meaning but the mood, and he's certainly a poetic lyricist. A line like "I will lie awake in times of trouble" is a fine image, and once again heightens the mood of this powerful set of songs. Hornell's a writer and performer who taps into his soul for his songs, and he has the power to affect the listener, a rare gift.

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About Bob Mersereau

Rockin' BobBob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).

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