Matt Cusson, who plays keyboards for Brian McKnight, is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and a good songwriter who won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and the Maxell Song of the Year Award for "One of Those Nights," a composition on his self-titled debut album. But though he plays most of the instruments on the album and wrote most of the songs, he doesn't emphasize those two talents as much as his skill as a vocalist. Cusson seems most interested in demonstrating his ability in a tradition that includes McKnight and dates back to Motown stars like Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder, the high-tenor soul singer who is so overcome by passion (or by the sound of his own voice) that he can't help interjecting an endless series of wordless sounds in between the lyrics. Cusson murmurs silkily in a bedroom manner, but he is so busy as a singer -- and so arbitrary in his exclamations, breathy phrasing, and octave jumps into falsetto -- that the actual songs tend to get lost. Those songs are set to ballad arrangements often featuring his keyboard playing prominently. It isn't unusual for a debuting artist, stepping out from the shadow of sideman work, to want to showcase himself in a variety of ways, and Matt Cusson the LP is a tour de force demonstrating its maker's competence in several related fields. It's just that, as a songwriter, he often isn't well served by the singer, even though they're both the same person.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Shoshana Bean