On his second recording following a self-imposed, five-year hiatus, and his first featuring any original material, Iain Matthews (he changed the spelling of his first name to its original Gaelic form) returned with a songwriting vengeance, penning eight of the 11 tunes for Pure & Crooked, his 14th solo record. By no means prolific throughout most of his career -- the majority of his albums contained maybe three or four originals -- his output here had been prior to this, equaled only by the 1971 release If You Saw Thro' My Eyes. And while his previous recording, Walking a Changing Line, showed him in fine form beneath its new age trappings, Pure & Crooked is as natural and assured as Matthews has sounded in quite awhile. Once again employing the help of producer Mark Hallman, Matthews, with cuts such as "Like Dominoes" which opens the album, and the vitriolic "New Shirt," delivers some of the most convincing folk-rock of his career. Elsewhere, "Busby's Babes," a touching memory of his boyhood idols' untimely deaths; the reflective "Rains of '62," and the Charlie Parker inspired "Bridge of Cherokee" rank with his best songs. In the past, Matthews had always had a knack for finding great material from outside sources, and his trio of choices here are good enough, though only Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street" truly stands out. Originally released on the now defunct Gold Castle label in 1990, Pure & Crooked was re-released four years later on the Austin, TX-based Watermelon Records with five extra songs, including the a cappella tunes "Drive" and "O'Connell Street," and a terrific, live solo version of Danny Whitten's "I Don't Wanna Talk About It."
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AllMusic Review by Brett Hartenbach