Saturday, June 8, 2013

Found in Translation - A Review of Northern Lights from Belgium's

The original review by Dani Heyvaert can be found here:
Rootstime Review

Producer Dave Blackburn's friend Lieve kindly translated Dani's review for those reading in English.  

Sometimes when reviewing a record,  I am overcome with fear:  fear because of the meaning of words, and particularly fear to be unable to indicate in a sufficiently nuanced way what it is all about with a record.

“Northern Lights” is one of those.  It is a debut album of an otherwise unknown man, who is however gifted with the talent to write just about the most fragile songs that I have had the chance to hear in the last five years.

However, these are not children’s rhymes, written by Matt Stone.  To the contrary: he makes musical mini portraits about a moment, a place, an event... which have stayed with him or with the person who told him about them.   In the opener “The Simple Things” it sounds like this: “Sun comes up over the hill and climbs in the kitchen window, coffee on the stove, 6 a.m. again”.

Look, maybe you will find me an old romantic or so – not that there would be anything against it – but when I hear something like that, I see myself sitting at that table, then I smell the coffee and I see the sun rising slowly.  That is what this record does for me: it evokes an enormity of images and that means in any case that Matt Stone can choose the right words to express what he wants to say.  Such people make me jealous...

Matt Stone has probably worked very long on this record, because all along these twelve songs he keeps reaching the same high textual level.  On the musical side, this is a rather traditional folk record: mainly sober, rather dreamy songs driven by acoustic guitar, albeit that there are also here and there some more up-tempo numbers.

To see the Aurora Borealis, that magnificent northern light of which we can only dream... who would not want that?  Matt can devote his title song to it, in the same way as he can sing the praise of his old faithful pick-up truck in “Fifty Two”...  the man seems to need only half a reason to pour some impression or memory into a song.

This requires great story telling skill, which this man is not short of.  In addition, his voice is perfectly suited for the mostly soft, quietly flowing songs.  But all in all Matt Stone has delivered a very beautiful debut album, which however requires one warning: the appropriate mood and location are important.  So don’t listen to this when your snivelling brats are getting on your nerves, nor when you are on the way to hospital to visit your recently operated on mother-in-law.

No, this is a record for people who have been able to free their mind for a while, so that they can fill it with undistilled beauty and poetic power. You would like a comparison? Alright then: this is the male version of Eliza Gilkyson.

 - Dani Heyvaert

Matt Stone: Northern Lights