Talking Elephant / MiG Music 2021
Eternally youthful elder statesman seizes the day in the company of a kindred spirit.
Iain Matthews’ method has always been amazing: a prolific singer-songwriter who always avoided flipping through different genres, each of the veteran’s many albums contain genuine gems – yet, targeting timelessness ever since he left a certain folk-rock ensemble, this artist didn’t seem to care about aiming for zeitgeist. And then the pandemic struck, and concert treks stopped, and Iain found himself out for a day-to-day morning stroll whence he returned with a new batch of mentally notched lyrics which the former Fairporter would send to BJ Baartmans, a guitar-wielding Southern Comforter, who minted melodies for most of Matthews’ tunes. Thus, their CONSPIRACY came to existence – hot on the heels of Matthews’ collaboration with THE SALMON SMOKERS.
The duo’s first album offers a riveting trip into here and now, or even particular calendar moment, the electric folk ballad “Fourteen Months” dating and detailing the onset of our current plight while focusing on what it was like for Iain yet hinting at its global implications, so once he’s asked “How much more can this world take?” further down the line, in the vibrant “All That Glitters” – posing one of the uneasy questions scattered across these pieces – the platter’s scope will become planetary. Of course, the hardest-hitting issue should arise in the angst-infused “Are You A Racist” that’s devoid of anger in favor of curiosity, but there’s also a tender twang in the hypnagogic opener “Sleepwalking” to pacify the listener in the face of “new reality” and stamp the record’s flow with September’s chagrin, letting Matthews’ soft voice chart his course from “the dimming of light” to “the dawning of a day” and beyond.
Rarely a storyteller earlier, Iain chose a warm sympathetic tone for “The Corner Of Sad And Lonely” to relate – to BJ’s sparse, percussive, bass-heavy accompaniment – a tale of his despondent friend, whereas the latter shared the sentiment of “Writing Off The Blues” and, having located a spiritual crunch in this cut, wrapped “Here’s Looking At You” in a magic waltz. However, the two get back to the folk fold for the finale of “Is This It” in which Matthews inquires, “Can a sequel still be made?” – and the answer to it must be positive.