You better make room in your playlist for this summer, because Matt Daniel is about to beg to participate. What’s all that hair metal doing there anyway? Are you on some sort of nostalgia spree? 86 all that stuff and get something with a bit of twang and soul in the mix. That’s what Matt Daniel serves here, and he might have two middle names, but you won’t soon forget them.
Originally from Seymour, Texas, which is in the country just west of Fort Worth, Matt Daniel was raised strictly on Gospel music. He was exposed early on to country greats such as Alan Jackson and Randy Travis, but only through their gospel works. When it came out on its own, it was a healthy dose of secular stuff from old greats like Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. Matt was also fond of such Texan songwriters as Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, and fell head first into the music of the Turnpike Troubadours.
You hear all these influences mixed in the eight songs of his first album All I will need. It was released in February, but it just drifted off yours truly’s radar. With songs this good, he had to break through to a wider audience at some point. It’s not uncommon to hear a great voice in the country, or to hear quality songs from young talent, or to hear a great selection on a well-produced record. What is rare is to synchronize them all at the same time. All I will need accomplishes this.
Matt Daniel immediately appeals to your country bone with a great country voice. And like the Turnpike Troubadours, it’s a traditional country sound with fiddle and steel, but with just a hint of rock and roll energy and swagger to give it a bit more immediacy and contagion.
The sound is what draws you in, but it’s the songs that you stay for. At some point, Matt Daniel made his way to Nashville and luckily ran into the right crowd, namely some of the songwriters hanging around the weekly event called The Revival at the Tin Roof on Tuesdays. Instead of releasing half-baked songs, Daniel took the conventional country approach and co-wrote with the likes of Nate Fredrick, Matt McKinney and Revival mainstay Rob Snyder to really hone his work.
Once he had albums of songs, Matt Daniel moved back to Texas and recorded them at the old KSIJ studio in Gladewater, Texas where Johnny Cash and Elvis once recorded to give everything that authentic flavor. Produced by Chad Mauldin, this is a classic country record, but with slightly elevated writing, but not so elevated as to alienate the classic country crowd like some “Americana” does, if that makes sense. It’s substantial, but accessible.
The swinging “Weatherman” is a heartbreaking song about becoming a weather lover. “Homeless in Heaven” is another killer and well-written track, offering a unique perspective on an otherwise favorite and common subject for songwriters. “Better Place” co-written with Rob Snyder also stands out.
At their best, Matt Daniel’s songs have great movement and excellent composition that is sometimes missing from quality traditional country songs. A good ear is given to everything here, even if a particular song may not appeal to you personally. It’s fair to characterize a few of the songs as weaker than some of the others, while eight songs might feel a little skimpy to some. But that’s only because good things make you thirsty for more.
Some great country songwriters try to pretend to be country singers, including some who have gone quite far. But when you have a great singer who can also write songs, that’s what makes for good country music like you. All I will need.
1 3/4 guns raised (8.2/10)
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