You better get to making some room in your playlist for this summer because Matt Daniel is about to be begging to get on it. What’s all that hair metal doing on there anyway? You on some sort of nostalgia kick? 86 all of that stuff and get something with some twang and soul in the mix. That’s what Matt Daniel is serving up here, and he might have two first names, but you won’t be forgetting either of them anytime soon.
Originally from Seymour, Texas, which is out in the country a bit west from Fort Worth, Matt Daniel was raised up strictly on Gospel music. He was exposed to country greats such as Alan Jackson and Randy Travis early on, but only through their Gospel works. When he got out on his own though, it was a healthy dose of secular stuff from the old greats like Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. Matt also too a liking to those Texas songwriters like Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, and fell head first into the music of the Turnpike Troubadours.
You hear all of these influences blended into the eight songs of his debut album All I’ll Ever Need. It was released back in February, but it’s just now drifting on to the radar of yours truly. With songs this good, it was bound to break through to a bigger audience at some point. It’s not uncommon to hear a great voice in country, or to hear quality songs from up-and-comers, or to hear great picking on a well-produced record. What’s rare is to get them all synced up at the same time. All I’ll Ever Need accomplishes this.
Matt Daniel immediately appeals to your country bone with a great country voice. And like the Turnpike Troubadours, it’s a traditional country sound with fiddle and steel, but with just a dash of rock and roll energy and swagger to give it a bit more immediacy and infectiousness.
The sound is what draws you in, but it’s the songs that you stick around for. At some point Matt Daniel headed out to Nashville, and luckily fell in with the right crowd, namely some of the songwriters that hung around the weekly event called The Revival at the Tin Roof on Tuesdays. Instead of releasing songs half baked, Daniel took the conventional country approach and co-wrote with guys like Nate Fredrick, Matt McKinney, and Revival mainstay Rob Snyder to really refine his stuff.
Once he had an albums worth of songs though, Matt Daniel headed back to Texas, and recorded them at the ol’ KSIJ studio in Gladewater, Texas where Johnny Cash and Elvis once recorded to give everything that authentic flavor. Produced by Chad Mauldin, this is a classic country record, but one with slightly elevated songwriting, but not so elevated to alienate the classic country crowd like some “Americana” does, if that makes sense. It’s substantive, but accessible.
The swaying “Weatherman” is a killer heartbreak song about falling into becoming a fair weather lover. “Homeless in Heaven” is another killer, well-written track, taking a unique perspective on an otherwise favorite and common subject matter for songwriters. “Better Place” co-written with Rob Snyder also stands out.
At their best, Matt Daniel’s songs have great movement, and great composition that is sometimes absent in otherwise quality traditional country songs. A good ear is brought to everything here, even if a particular song may not appeal to you personally. It’s fair to characterize a few of the songs as weaker as some of the others, while eight songs may feel a little lean for some. But that’s only because the great stuff gets you thirsty for more.
Some great country songwriters try to fake it as country singers, including some who’ve gotten pretty far. But when you have a great singer that can also write songs, this is what results in great country music like you get on All I’ll Ever Need.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8.2/10)
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