6-String Ranch 2023
Out of oblivion and into the open: Austin team ground their groove in a neon-lit vista to emerge triumphantly under the sun.
It looks like Matt Smith had to take stock of his back catalogue to not only define his future solo path with "Being Human" but also, having released an archival live document from his erstwhile ensemble, to call on former colleagues and lead them to the studio to set straight the record of their joint band’s existence. Or, rather their band’s vitality and readiness to shift focus from raucous rock ‘n’ roll to softer textures mostly associated with northern states – yet then, this Texan artist was born and raised in New York and, thus, nursed on urban rhythms which he proudly brings to the fore here, to put his electric licks into a proper streetwise context. The results of implementing such a paradigm are life-affirmingly entertaining, and sometimes surprising.
Not that the group parted with their rumble – it’s very much present in the swagger of “Possibility” and “A Change In Me” which appear closer to the record’s end – but the album’s titular opener reveals their folk-rooted romanticism, Smith’s guitar filigree and velvet voice transporting Hawaiian aromas in the listener’s living room. Breezy percussion and female vocalese elevate this joyous performance before flying into the effervescent night for the funky “Why Can’t We Have A Good Time” and soulful “Still Not Dead” – one laid down in Austin and the other in Big Apple – to demonstrate the collective’s mastery of the ’70s Philly sound and their brass-splashed jive. Yet if the ruminative “Water Of Life” – which could be born in Muscle Shoals – floats on the gradually heated transparence, the woodwind-washed “Measure Of A Man” on which Matt’s duetting with Ange Kogutz marries pastoral delicacy to heavy riffs with quite a gloriously psychedelic outcome redolent of the late ’60s London.
However, whereas Latino-flavored “Make The Most Of Your Life” flaunts the players’ fusion flair, the varying tones of six-string fluidity complementing each of the songs most perfectly, the piano-driven “My Baby Likes To Ya Ya” boogies on with restrained abandon and a pinch of jazz, and the spoken-word-augmented finale of “Life Ain’t Easy (And Then Ya Die)” proudly struts its swampy, slider-caressed wares towards bluesy bliss. With this kind of variety, getting bored is impossible and get carried away is simple, rendering “Into The Light” an instant success.