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Matty Charles and the Valentines

Land Beyond the Sea – 2004 (MCV)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Matty Charles and the Valentines

Matty Charles' languorous singing and the band's sparse arrangements create the sort of quiet-as-loud sound that causes listeners to lean in, a magnetism that pulls subway riders towards the band's New York subway busking gigs. The lineup of guitar, drums and acoustic bass leaves the songs to turn on the lyrics tumbling from Charles' mouth, punctuated occasionally by pedal steel or a tasteful guitar solo. Charles writes with the broadness of his heroes, Nelson, Earle and Waits, but his singing edges towards the gravity of Waylon Jennings, the melancholy of Richard Buckner and the wordy, poetic edge of Kris Kristofferson or Paul Simon. Many of Charles' songs are internal monologues, wandering through a Gram Parsons-like desert demise ("Long Gone"), confessing weakness ("Where They're Gonna Bury Me") and communing with film classics ("At the Pictureshow"). Time-tested topics such as love ("Lover's Lane" "Valentine Song"), romantic doubt ("Lonesome Lull") and shattered relationships ("Mama, I Don't Wanna Go Insane") are renewed by Charles earnestness and the band's intimate backings. The most time-tested of tales, Adam & Eve's exodus from the Garden of Eden, anchors the album's bouncy title tune.

This record doesn't try to grab you with flashy picking or overproduced multi-tracking. But that's exactly its charm: lyrical and musical depth couched in a folksy, subtle presentation that reveals (rather than announces) itself. Max Stalling