Matt Wertz: Everything In Between
A brainwavez.org Music Review


United States of America by Jase Luttrell
Posted: 9 February 2007

After receiving a promotional copy of Matt Wertz's latest release Everything In Between, we at brainwavez.org are having an exceptionally difficult time picking our jaws up from off the floor. The album is a delight to listen to, and we're happy to have it join our CD library.

Matt Wertz: Everything In BetweenMatt Wertz, a Nashville-based singer/songwriter has been recording since 2001. Now, at the age of 27, he is preparing to release his third full-length studio album, Everything In Between. The album has the distinct ability to tell a story of love gained and lost, but also for transporting the listener to a simpler, beautiful, and more soulful place. The adjective "accomplished" barely begins to describe his immensely powerful vocals and dexterity on the electric and acoustic guitar.

The album opens with the simple, percussive, acoustic-guitar work and bluesy electric piano of "The Way I Feel". The song takes a straightforward approach with its lyrics, and the music is a gentle toe-tapping groove. The highlights of this song are the impressive staccato bass-guitar licks and the barely audible clapping during the chorus. Matt wrote this song because he was feeling the beginnings of love but the song makes me feel as if I'm in a crowd with my closest friends on a summer night, swaying and clapping to the beat. My only disappointment in this song is the 80's-style fade out. I believe there are much more creative ways to end a song besides drifting off into nothingness. This ending detracts and minimises the great groove established by this song.

While the fade-out ending of "The Way I Feel" is a poor way to end the song, it sets up "Carolina" beautifully. "Carolina" is almost a bluegrass song, with its subtle mandolin work floating above the strummed acoustic guitar. The melody of the mandolin is matched by the expertly played bass guitar, adding an interesting depth to the song. It's not clear whether Matt is singing to Carolina the states (North Carolina and South Carolina are collectively referred to as Carolina) or a girl named Carolina, but it doesn't matter: though I've never been to the Carolinas this song feels the way I imagine western Carolina would feel after a rainstorm in the spring, just as the sun sets behind the Blue Ridge Mountains.

"Heartbreaker" has a strange beat: the bass guitar pumps out a steady stream of eighth notes, while the drums and electric guitars emphasise the offbeats, creating a strong rockabilly groove. The chorus is extremely simple but is executed very well by Matt's gritty voice. Occasionally he sings in a lilting falsetto, but only as a background vocal. Whether I want to or not, I find myself tapping along to the beat reflexively, which, although unconventional, is gripping and fun.

"Over You" showcases Matt's musical abilities with his voice. The verse is sung in a lower register than any of the other songs, and slowly rises in tone as well as volume as the chorus approaches. This emphasises the chorus brilliantly. Though the lyrics are not spectacular - "I don't want to get over you, I can't get you off my mind" - they are delivered well, and not in a self-loathing, pining sort of way. The song is about a breakup, but it is delivered in a delightful, enjoyable, and engaging manner.

I can't express how much I enjoy the intro guitar work of "5:19": it is quick and impressively played, though it may be easier than it sounds. The slight reggae beat played on the electric guitar is an excellent addition to Matt's stylistic repertoire. The line "I'm holding loose but I ain't letting go" is endearing and delivered well. Most artists would make this line seem sickly sentimental or cheesy, but it seems an afterthought when Matt delivers it. Unfortunately, the song is so enjoyable that it's 3:10 length passes by too quickly, and the listener is left wanting more.

The only instrumental solo on the album is found in the atmospheric introduction to "I Will Not Take My Love Away". The electric guitar is lightly distorted and accented by a full, yet distant, keyboard sound akin to a reverberating organ. As the intro fades away, Matt's acoustic guitar and strong, soulful voice begins. Instantly, I am enamored by the eloquent line "when praises cease and seasons change", though I can't explain why. This is the slowest song on Everything In Between and does not have any drums or bass guitar. It is a welcome respite from the grooves of the rest of the album, and shows Matt has great talents with ballads as well as with fast-paced rock songs. This song feels like an autumn day on a peaceful, dew soaked farm in Tennessee. Just as "5:19" is too short, "I Will Not Take My Love Away" is too quick to end.

"Like The Last Time" returns the album to a quick beat but this is darker and more chaotic musically. This is because the lyrics are about a lover slipping through his hands, and how he pleads that everything will "be fine just like the last time". Though the verse is dark, the chorus uses major chords almost exclusively to emphasise the positive hopefulness for the relationship. The song ends abruptly, leaving the listener wondering "what happened?" and begging for more.

"With You, Tonight" is the only song that is keyboard and programming heavy, and it is slower than "Like the Last Time", at least initially. The song is played in a 6/8 timing, which sets it apart from the rest of the songs on the album. The lyric "everything will be just fine" is recycled for this song, and further detracts from its lyrical originality, but it is still a song that stands out. As it ends, the keyboards slowly fade out and the acoustic-guitar finger pickings are the last thing heard until they slowly fade away. Though I'm not a fan of fade-out endings, unlike "The Way I Feel", this ending fits the song and is artistically creative.

Stylistically, "Naturally" has a dark Spanish feel to it, proving Matt can move through styles effortlessly. The vocals, with their tight and consistent harmonies evince an R&B song akin to something Justin Timberlake would attempt, but Matt has the vocal ability to pull it off and to give the song a soulful yearning and forcefulness comparable to no one. This is my favourite song on the album because of its creativity and musical style.

The album ends with the subtle, jazz-folk leaning of "Capitol City". While the songs on Everything In Between focus on love and breakups, this song shows depth and maturity as Matt comes to terms with the understanding that the relationship with his lover is over and that the situation's resolution is best for both involved. As the song plays on, it slowly evolves into a soaring, beautiful ballad, with each word of the lyrics sung in a long, drawn out, pensive way; a powerful way to express his lyrics of "do not be afraid because you're right where you should be". The remaining minute of this song is beautiful and musically sparse, and eventually the acoustic and electric guitars disappear entirely, leaving Matt to sing the final line, "say the word, it's all I'd need to catch a plane, make you believe", a cappella. This is a beautiful and perfect way to end the album: the listener is left wanting more.

Normally, I don't care much for album artwork but this is a rare exception: several pictures show Matt looking thoughtful, cracking a wry smile, or laughing outright. Each photo captures the overall musical tone of the album. The most striking photo is the centre photograph in the album booklet. In this photo, Matt is standing in the middle of an alleyway, his back to a girl with her arms crossed in a demure fashion. The photo begs the question "who is the girl?" and really exemplifies the album's tracks about falling in love, the breakup, and the eventual acceptance of the situation. In one photo, the overarching story of the entire album is told, which is a powerful and unifying artistic choice.

Though I've mostly commented on the music of this CD, I have left my comments on Matt's voice for the end of the review. His voice is simply incredible. At times, he sounds like John Mayer, Gavin DeGraw, James Blunt, Miles Davis, Eric Clapton, and John Mellencamp, but I firmly believe Matt is a better vocalist than any of these singers. His voice is strong, powerful, soulful, lilting, yearning, heartbreaking, and gritty. He can sing in a high, bluesy or R&B register, but is also comfortable singing with a low, slightly growled rock style. This adaptability is impressive, and he confidently and effectively uses all of these styles in his songs. There is not a moment on this album where Matt's voice is not at its ultimate peak. Though his songs and his album are too short, his vocal ability is well worth the disappointing 34 minutes.

Overall, this album is a pleasure to listen to, and I enjoyed writing about it and telling my friends about this artist. The blending of soul, bluegrass, jazz, blues, country, and R&B is not only effective and engaging, it is an absolute thrill to listen to. This album rightfully belongs on every "Best of 2007" list, and deserves wide, prolonged exposure.

Everything In Between will be released in the United States on 27 February 2007.

Matt Wertz is currently on tour in the US and Canada to promote his album. Tonight he will be appearing in Aspen, Colorado, and tomorrow night he will be in Salt Lake City, Utah. Visit his web site for tour dates and to book tickets, as well as to listen to full versions of some of the tracks on this album and his previous releases. You can also listen to samples of all the tracks on
Everything In Between at Amazon.com.


brainwavez.org Comments


brainwavez.org Opinion
Rating: 9/10
Key Facts (Review Copy)
Artist: Matt Wertz
Title: Everything In Between (Audio CD)
Label: Nettwerk Records
Release Date: 27 February 2007
Genre: Blues, Pop, Rock

Track Listing:
1. The Way I Feel ... 03:20
2. Carolina ... 03:02
3. Heartbreaker ... 02:43
4. Over you ... 03:13
5. 5:19 ... 03:10
6. I Will Not Take My Love Away ... 02:23
7. Like The Last Time ... 03:02
8. With You, Tonight ... 04:08
09. Naturally ... 03:28
10. Capitol City ... 05:19

On The Internet
Shop | Amazon.com Amazon US
Shop | Amazon.co.uk Amazon UK