Matt Hannah – House of Illusion
I’m old school so when I talk about Matt comparisons to his showcase are going to lean more toward those who influenced the influencers. On first listen, Mr. Hannah has phrasing, intonation & tonality somewhere between the late David Blue (S. David Cohen) who had a laid-back melancholy folk-oriented approach to his cinematic little songs & Eric Andersen (“Blue River”). Hannah has a little more kick to his band but also has strong elements of Joe Henry (“Trampoline”) strung across his noir-type lyrical tales.
Michigan-born Matt (acoustic/electric guitar/vocals) finds his comfort zone on two immediately exceptional tunes: “Sidelines,” & “Searching for the Poets Grave.” These are well-written with far more originality than many contemporary singer-songwriters working the fences today. What’s commendable is Matt doesn’t sound like he’s even trying to be commercial or mainstream. He has his agenda music-wise & he sticks to it.
This collection is Mr. Hannah’s 3rd — House of Illusion (Dropped March 8–Independent) & contains 10 tunes that draw on images Matt is inspired by, including films of Ingmar Bergman. The songs are observations, while others create a private world behind sun-faded shades in a second-floor window.
The spare “Last of the Flophouses,” comes on slowly. But Matt’s voice, while not raised in a show biz tank has its charm because the kind of words he sings requires that type of vocal sincerity. Something comparable to the late Chuck E. Weiss & Tom Waits. But it’s the Greenwich Village mid-60s folk singer-songwriters like David Blue & Eric Andersen that bite at the heels of Matt Hannah whether he knows it or not.
“Places in America,” succeeds as another prime cut with a Jim Lampos (“Inherit the Wind”), James McMurtry (“Walk Between the Raindrops”) type vocal tint. Matt’s in good company. But it’s the slow “Real Guitars,” that Matt shines on — like a real troubadour with good tonality & storytelling skill.
I imagine Matt sings from his vintage tavern heart as he leans up against the greasy jukebox under a sad velvet neon — standing on its sticky floor where all the stories are.
So, while Tom Waits writes about carnivals, German burlesque houses & circus oddities — Matt can tackle park bench philosophers, punch-drunk veterans, NYC hustlers with carnations in their ratty suits, & curbside Times Square musicians who have cigar boxes on milk crates.
There’s a world of B&W out there & Matt Hannah has a feel for the after-hours existence — asleep in a subway car or leaning against a graffitied wall advertising Gerber baby food.
Musicians: Erik Koskinen (electric/baritone guitars), Ian Allison (bass), JT Bates (drums/percussion), Matt Patrick (electric guitar/electric 12-string guitar/ baritone guitar/synths/organ/bouzouki/mandolin/dobro & bv) & Stephen Kung (trumpet).
All songs were written/produced by Matt. B&W photo: Ryne Martin. CD available @ Bandcamp + https://www.matthannahmusic.com/