CD Review of Passing Stranger by Scott Matthews

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Passing Stranger
starstarstarstarno star Label: Island/San Remo
Released: 2007
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British singer/songwriter Scott Matthews has influences and comparisons that run the gamut from Jeff Buckley to Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin – and most of the time he also sounds like a dead ringer for grunge-meister Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame. With all of that taken in context, you might have a hard time imagining just what Matthews’ music sounds like. But one listen to his debut, Passing Stranger, and you’ll not only get it, you’ll likely be downright roped in by Matthews’ mesmerizing and intricate songwriting, as well as by the conviction with which he delivers his songs.

The instrumental prelude “Little Man Tabla Jam” kicks things off, and with funky acoustic guitars and alternate tunings, sounds like something from Led Zeppelin III. Then Matthews gets down to singer/songwriter business with “Dream Song,” a hodgepodge of acoustic slide guitars and lush but subtle strings that are held together by interesting yet catchy melodies. “The Fool’s Fooling Himself” is the kind of amps-to-11 rocker you’ll want to crank in your car, and “Eyes Wider Than Before” and “Elusive” are tracks that will remind you that Matthews is in fact a singer/songwriter, and a really good one. The title track is the kind of song that will sound instantly familiar, even though odds are you definitely haven’t heard it before. There are plenty more instrumental ditties thrown in here similar to the opening track, and the introspective “Earth to Calm” finds Matthews bearing a close resemblance to the late Buckley.

As much as you might think Scott Matthews is trying to create his own genre, there are definitely enough flavors (alt-rock, pop, jazz, blues, classic rock) to help fans and critics group him in somewhere. Really though, pigeonholers won’t find that task easy, and should instead embrace Passing Stranger for what it is—a really, really good rock album, and one that should put Matthews on the map on both sides of the pond.

~Mike Farley