After five straight solo recordings with producer Mark Hallman at the helm -- going back to 1988 -- Iain Matthews decided to handle the production duties, along with guitarist Bradley Kopp, for 1999's Excerpts from Swine Lake. Whereas his last couple of recordings lived and died with his writing or vocals, here Matthews and Kopp inject the material with a vibrance that has been somewhat scarce in his work since 1990's Pure & Crooked. It also doesn't hurt that this is as consistent a collection of original music that he's put to record. Whether it's the songs, Kopp's influence, or Matthews himself that is the catalyst here, there's a renewed sense of purpose in his performances. That's not to say that the '90s weren't productive for him, it's just that as the decade went on, it became ever more difficult for anyone outside of hardcore fans to get excited over a new Iain Matthews release. His previous record, God Looked Down, seemed to be an effort to pull out of a slow tailspin into the land of indistinguishable folksinger/songwriters, but it merely scratched the surface of what he and Kopp have accomplished on Excerpts from Swine Lake. This is folk-rock with heart, intelligence, and soul. Tracks such as the darkly beautiful "Cave In," the troubled "Horse Left in the Rain," and the a cappella closer "Break a Window, Break a Heart" are just a few of the many highlights here. Also included are bonus cuts featuring solo acoustic demos for three songs from the album, as well as the touching Woody Guthrie-inspired "People's Park," which was previously unreleased. Nearly 30 years since first heading out on his own, Excerpts From Swine Lake reestablishes Iain Matthews' status as a viable artist, and may very well be his best release.
AllMusic Review by Brett Hartenbach