Ian Matthews

God Looked Down

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In the wake of his 1988 comeback -- an entire record dedicated to the work of Jules Shear -- Iain Matthews seemed to gain confidence and momentum as a writer, beginning with 1990's Pure and Crooked. Of the three albums that followed, two of them, including God Looked Down, are made up solely of his own material (although the basic melody of "So Many Eyes" was taken from the traditional "Nottamun Town," from his Fairport Convention days). And while Matthews' work has always been quite personal and individualistic even when covering other people's tunes, there's something about God Looked Down that hits a little closer to the bone. One of the album's best tracks, "Power of Blue," is maybe his most intimate and telling song since "If You Saw Thro' My Eyes," while elsewhere there are touches of hope, fear, wonder, and inadequacy -- both personal and societal. Musically, Matthews and longtime producer Mark Hallman create a more rock-based folk sound than his previous couple of outings, cloaking his acoustic-based tunes in bass, drums, and dark shades of organ and electric guitar. There also seems to be a freedom gained over the years from the fact that Matthews accepts and appreciates his "borderline career," settling nicely into his cult status, and the record benefits from this. God Looked Down may lack the consistency of his best records, but it still delivers some successful, introspective folk-rock.

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