Ian Matthews

A Tiniest Wham

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A Tiniest Wham finds Ian Matthews moving with assurance in the direction of acoustic pop. Matthews essentially eliminates the electric guitars that dominated his previous effort, Excerpts From Swan Lake, and sticks faithfully to his Epiphone Cortez acoustic. And yet the record does not sound "stripped down" or under-produced. If anything, A Tiniest Wham is more ambitiously -- and far more vibrantly -- produced than its predecessor. Matthews is joined by two highly talented fretsmiths, Bradley Kopp and Jim Fogarty, and the three of them apply a shiny multi-layered acoustic sheen to the songwriter's finely crafted tunes. The mix also benefits from an energetic use of percussion, bass, and mandolin. A major theme of the album is captured in a quotation from the Japanese artist Hokusai that is found inside the CD's jewel box: "I have been in love with painting ever since I became conscious of it at the age of six. I drew some pictures I thought fairly good when I was 50, but really, nothing I did before the age of 70 was of value at all." This concept of the ever growing and maturing artist is foreign to pop music, rooted as it is in youth culture and rebellion. But Matthews, a venerable rock veteran, nonetheless asserts that age and wisdom can enrich an artist's latter day efforts. "I'm Alive" is a sort of survival anthem that declares, "I don't know if you appreciate what my commitment's about/I'm a little shy of 'Surf's Up' but deeper than 'Twist and Shout.'" The record's most enjoyable track, "Funk and Fire," explores the crash and burn mentality that runs through rock history in lyrics that are replete with clever allusions to major music heroes. The lyrics of both songs reinforce the theme of the aging artist's growth and durability, but the strongest example of that phenomenon is the vitality of the album itself. With A Tiniest Wham, Matthews has forcefully demonstrated that he's only getting better as time goes on.

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