Album Review – Matt Hillyer’s “Glorieta”

Austin has 6th Street, but Dallas has Deep Ellum. Houston has the massive Rodeo Houston, but Dallas has the State Fair of Texas. Lubbock has The Flatlanders and Flatland Cavalry, but Dallas has Joshua Ray Walker, The Vandoliers, and Matt Hillyer. It’s easy to overlook the Dallas influence on Texas music because of all the bluster made about other cities, but it’s hard to deny that Dallas has an influence, and that Matt Hillyer has been a heavy part of that influence for years.

Hillyer has been known best for spending nearly a quarter century fronting the legendary Dallas honky tonk band Eleven Hundred Springs, who officially called it quits in June of 2021. We knew then that the news didn’t mean Matt Hillyer was going away for good. He’d always toured solo and released his own songs, and he’s just too good to go riding off in the sunset just yet. And here Hillyer is picking up where he left off with the new album Glorieta.

Dallas may be Matt Hillyer’s home, but the album opens with Hillyer fed up and leaving Big D in the rear view mirror—heading for parts West, namely the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico. Whether “Glorieta” is a woman, the little town just east of Santa Fe, or both, Hillyer leaves that open for your interpretation, but he takes you with him on a journey to leave the hustle and noise of everyday life behind.

Gray may have now filled into Matt’s once raven hair, but he’s far from finished contributing songs that he and others will be singing for years to come. Produced by John Pedigo of State Fair Records, Glorieta has good variety, like the Marty Robbins vibes of “Stolen Kisses” and the bluesy style of “What Kind of Fool.” But it’s the honky tonk numbers that make this record worth the fuss, like the deftly-written “Dirty Little Secrets,” or the extra-fun “It’s All About the Ride.”

You don’t know if he’s canonizing or criticizing in “Ordinary Man,” but either way, the appeal cuts through to most every soul, and reminds you of the writing of old classic folk rock. The album is solely written by Hillyer except a couple of co-writes, and Matt also plays his own guitar and leads, which come in super hot and twangy on a few choice selections. Then a few ace players are brought in to fill out some parts here and there, namely the legendary Lloyd Maines on steel guitar, and Heather Stalling on fiddle.

It can be easy to overlook ol’ Matt Hillyer, not just because he’s from Dallas, which is systemically overlooked in Texas music already. Some may have to recognize the name via Eleven Hundred Springs, and since Matt’s no longer some young pup out there any more hot dogging to steal the show, people won’t sniff him out as one of the next big up-and-coming artists.

But Glorieta is a real quality mid career release with some good songs begging for an audience. It’s refreshingly straightforward and unpretentious, and hopefully portends good things for years to come from Matt Hillyer post Eleven Hundred Springs. The legendary Dallas band may have released their last song, but the legacy of Dallas honky tonk lives on through the music of Matt Hillyer.

1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)

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Purchase from State Fair Records

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