Iain Matthews / Searing Quartet

Joy Mining

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This is not typically what you are looking for in a Iain Matthews record. For Joy Mining, the Fairport Convention co-founder and dignified U.K. folkie joined forces with a Dutch jazz ensemble, Searing Quartet, and its leader, pianist Egbert Derix. It seems Matthews always dreamed of making a jazz album, so he took his time and, instead of opting for a jazzified set of his classic songs, he co-wrote a whole (12) set of new songs with Derix. As a result, this album is not Matthews plus jazz band, or jazz band plays the hits of Matthews, but a bona fide collaboration between an A-list lyricist and a very good jazz songwriter. Sure, the album has a strong easy listening/baby boomer flavor, but the match is so perfectly made, and the songs so addictive, that you can only bliss out to Derix's velvety motives, Peter Hermesdorf's romantic sax lines, and Iain Matthews' experienced, well-honed voice, just smoky enough to make the project work. Highlights include "St. Theresa's Ghost" ("She won't recall...fair times at all"), "My Town" ("Let's go back to your town/We can't go back to mine/My town hit the poorhouse in 1969"), and "Reservoir" ("You are my reservoir/Life on a distant star"). Even when Matthews sings about forgotten cowboys ("Randolph Scott"), his words ring true and echo through Derix's piano keys. Iain Matthews has been quite vocal about Joy Mining being the best album of his career and, honestly, even though it stands outside of his regular productions, it's hard not to agree.

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