2016 CD REVIEW
MATT JOE GOW
SEVEN YEARS (ESSENCE)
NO ORDINARY JOE - MATT'S HER MAN
“There's a fire a burning rain on the parade/ there's a wheel a turning let it turn, let it drive away/ you don't need this wreckage/ just a change of plan, been waiting in the wings/ I'm done with it, baby I'm your man/ trouble going fall away now, trouble going be damned/ trouble going fall away now.” - I'm Your Man - Matt Joe Gow.
Expatriate New Zealand singer-songwriter Matt Joe Gow exploits weather metaphors to accentuate the turbulence of the storms of life and love on his belated second album that he produced with his long time guitarist Andrew Pollock.
The much travelled troubadour, born into a musical and academic family at Dunedin in the Deep South of New Zealand, again uses his life on the lost highway - including embryonic EP releases in Canada and England - to flesh out his muse.
The Gow genetics are rich and equally steeped in wanderlust.
His parents arranged for him to learn classical piano at the age of five and inspired a diverse geographic and musical journey that involved family travel throughout academia and way beyond.
Matt's professorial patriarch still sings in a choir when not enriching pharmaceutical students of knowledge of compounds, chemistry and other panaceas.
So it's no surprise Gow's new self-funded album Seven Years that took its title from the chorus of the song Steady Life from his debut album The Messenger echoes his life and is an energised extension of family tradition.
“Seven years are gonna change a man.''
Gow used four different studios and again hired veteran musician-songwriter Bill Chambers and road band members to adorn his sequel to The Messenger on Nash Chambers Essence label.
Chambers family protégé Catherine Britt added her vocals to The Messenger but this time Katya Harrop blooms as Gow's duet partner on Flowers In Your Hair.
It's a natural fit as Katya is a member of Gow's road band and cousin of Pollock.
But it's Vanessa Crouch who plays Gow's love interest in his video for album entrée I'm Your Man directed by Joanna Strong at Monster and Bear Studios in historic inner northern Melbourne suburb Brunswick.
The singer's character uses imagery of a broken record and late night TV to illustrate the power of his passion for the subject of his love pursuit.
It seems apt the video debuts on Nu Country TV on Channel 31/Digital 44 at 9.30 pm on October 22 with Highett duo The Weeping Willows.
I'm Your Man segues into the rocking revelry of Running On Time where the ribald Romeo battles with his belle's matriarch to capture his quarry.
But the singer releases the reins on his female lead in the reflective Bottle It Up, Pass It On where he suggests she move on to another field of romance.
That's just a brief analysis of the lyrical content of the album entrée from a remote locale.
Gow doesn't just write all his 12 songs - his distinctive harmonica playing adorns his music.
“Yes sir, that's me on the harp,” Gow revealed on the eve of his album launch with local band Amarillo on November 5 at The Spotted Mallard, near the old Dawson estate in Brunswick.
“It's on five songs but I tried to use it a little differently on each of those songs. From cross harp on Running On Time through to some single note stuff under loud guitars on Bitter Pill , to a good old played in the harp-rack on Flowers or Bottle It Up , Pass It On .”
GEORGIA ROSE FIRST OF LOVE TRIBUTARIES
“I been travelling down these streets alone/ like a river flowing to the sea/ like a child scorned though duly loved/ or a gypsy born of no belief/ every town that I lay my head/ before I sleep there's a moment's peace/ when she comes to me singing low and sweet I shall be released/ take me home sweet Georgia Rose, take me home let me live again.” - Georgia Rose - Matt Joe Gow.
Georgia Rose is the perfect partner of Flowers In Your Hair where the character's patience is again rewarded as he struggles to find love in the dark.
Gow's touring harmonist Harrop provides the ideal vocal foil - she provides sweet solace with “when I'm broken down out round the way/ give me a love I can take day by day.”
But the flowers have long faded when the singer accepts the painful passing of love in Down River - perhaps the pathos primed peak of his album.
It was originally titled The Messenger and recorded at Sing-Sing Studios with Nash Chambers for Matt's debut but evolved in the seven year recording hiatus and was reborn here.
The car that drove Gow to his conclusion returns, albeit rain drenched and idling roughly, returns in another romance requiem Right By You.
That song documents the end of a long-term relationship that had begun in Dunedin and finished in Melbourne.
But it seems a hefty dose of magic is needed badly in the deluded desertion metaphor of Glass Bottles to dust off the old broken down heart that is still way beyond repair in Bitter Pill .
Don't get the impression this is all ruptured romance from the singer who once studied philosophy at university in his native New Zealand.
The hurricanes may or may not blow away regret in the urgency of Let Love Be Now but the singer is energised once again in Grand Ambition where he throws caution to the wind to follow his dreams.
It seems the character accepts defeat in his melancholic mélange in fitting finale Bye where Brisbane folk singer Ange Takats is the guest vocalist.
Gow says it best - “It's like a coma that I woke from suddenly sober.”
And, of course, Gow once again used his road band to flesh out the recording with a little help from other friends.