Iain Matthews relocated to Austin Texas back in the late '80s, so it shouldn't come as a great surprise that The Art of Obscurity is steeped in the unconventional Americana rhythms of the city. Recorded in Austin by producer -- who has cut records with several of the city's stalwarts, including Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore -- The Art of Obscurity does indeed flirt with hints of country and blues, but it's generally an intimate folk-rock affair that showcases Matthews' idiosyncratic voice. Prior to its release, Matthews suggested this would be his last solo album (he's not looking to retire from music but would rather focus on collaborations if he chooses to record), and this would function as a fitting coda to his long career. Tinged with nostalgia that's never rose-tinted, and sounding warm and comfortable without ever being too cozy, The Art of Obscurity celebrates how Matthews crafts gentle, elliptical songs that are never evasive and are often easily melodic, even if they're heavy on lyrics. As such, this music glides across the ears, never indicating how deeply its hooks are sinking in; these songs wind up growing in the subconscious, suggesting how Matthews knows precisely how his obscure art works. If he winds up retiring from songwriting after this, so be it -- The Art of Obscurity shows that he's mastered his art.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine