Although I’ve played this album several times, I haven’t been able to shake my first impression.
As it played, I kept hearing the Atlanta Rhythm Section, that kind of easy-rolling groove of so much southern rock as typified by ARS. The vocals, by Dennis Matechuk – the Mat of Matlen Starsley – are reminiscent of ARS’s Ronnie Hammond and the songs have a bluesy swing without being generic. Yet blues colours the album, particularly the guitar-playing of Kevin Star – the Star of Matlen Starsley. His playing isn’t strictly blues but it would be hard to ignore the descending riff of Eric Clapton’s version of I Shot The Sheriff in Sweet Touch. As well, keyboard player Darryl Hebert – a name I think I know from an early Doug And The Slugs – provides a wash of organ, primarily, that mixes in a little jazz with the blues. So Rollin’ Again is blues-drenched but Matlen Starsley can’t be pigeon holed as a blues band.
If anything, Matlen Starsley sounds like an accomplished bar band in that these songs sound made to be played in front of an audience that old and experienced enough to relate to songs about failed love (We Don’t Love No More) or outright bad choices (Your Love Ain’t Special) and personal inadequacies. It’s not all in the same low down blues-rock vein as there is the shuffle of A Matter Of Time or the country-tinged Trail Went Cold .
Producer Ray Roper strikes a balance between a big sound that is crisp and punchy while letting the band be itself. What you hear is a working band with polish. Not just live but lively