We sang a Matt Maher song at a LifeTeen Youth Mass, and I couldn't wait to hear more. That was played by Angus, music minister at Assumption Catholic Church in Bellingham WA, backed by understated, subtle electric guitar, and smooth jazz from the drummer of the band Polecat. All I can say, Matt, is you wish you could hear them play your new album, because it sounds so much better without what Mike Knott called Nash-Vegas production.
Not that there aren't incredible songs here. There are. "My Only Love" ought to be on the radio as we speak, and it would fit nearly any format (not just ccm). "The Spirit and the Bride" is a wonderful paraphrase of promises from the book of Revelation, co-written with Leeland, and in many ways this album reminds me of Leeland's outstanding debut disc, "The Sound of Melodies" Sound of Melodies. "Everything and Nothing" also easily makes the cut, although I'm starting to want less production/arranging, and more Matt and co. cut loose on it. The first two songs get you out of bed in the morning ("Rise Up") and get you through the night.
If only this album were allowed to be as gritty as it really is. What if T Bone Burnett had produced this album in the naked manner of the first Counting Crows or Wallflowers or Los Lobos albums? Everyone knows Paul McCartney released the Let it Be album as "Let it Be Naked" because he thought Phil Spector oversweetened it. But it's nowhere as oversweetened as this album, where someone who thinks rock music requires strings and horns apparently randomly stuck them in.
The Band and Bob Dylan once made an album called The Basement Tapes, on which they played each other's songs. I can't wait until Matt gets to do that. Not that he needs to make another album, just do his songs in that authentic, stripped down way. Because hold on to your hat. These are rock songs, not pop songs beneath all that glitzy pop production. Maybe when Nash-Vegas finally falls with Babylon Matt can pick up a guitar and play, just like yesterday. And I'll get on my knees and pray he doesn't get overproduced again.
In the meantime, maybe Angus and friends will play some of these songs. Or maybe you will. Maybe your church or parish will be singing them. They're certainly singable, playable, believable. Way too good to be lost in the pile of business as usual stuff. See you Sunday night.