Matt Dorrien – Blue Pastoral (Mama Bird Recording Co.)
Four years after his stellar debut, Matt Dorrien is back with his sophomore effort, Blue Pastoral, a bittersweet, if slightly quieter follow up.
Across 10 tracks of piano-based folk, jazz and pop Dorrien has moved on from the post-break up blues that came to define In The Key Of Grey, for a slightly optimistic and more sanguine vibe that starts with the kickoff track “Twenty years” and is carried throughout. Weaved into the songs here is a surprising contentedness Dorrien seems to have discovered realizing he may not achieve massive success but has found happiness in love and other pursuits. This is made clear on the charming “That Gets Me Through” (“Used to be I was consumed by a need/For leaving my mark on this world/Now I’m only concerned with one thing/And that’s you and me, girl”). The song serves as the lodestar for Blue Pastoral.
There is a timelessness sound to most of the songs here. And while there really aren’t any weak tracks on the record there are some that are clear standouts, like the strikingly beautiful “United States Of Nothing.” Accentuated with strings, on the surface the song seems to be a melancholy reflection on broken dreams, but the salvation of love is at the core of the song. The same can be said of the equally stunning “Friendly Face.”
“I’m learning that life is about compromise,” Dorrien said recently about the album. “In a way, I had to learn to give something up—whether it was my old ‘wild’ single life or my pursuit of fickle success—in order to find true fulfillment. Maybe these songs can provide comfort to anyone feeling disillusioned as they pursue their dream, too.”
While it would be easy to see this as simply giving up, with his own unique musical style that draws on inspiration from other piano-based songwriters like Harry Nilsson, Rufus Wainwright and Randy Newman, Dorrien has offered an alternative to the mainstream. He can still be a musician, singing and writing in his own style – trends be damned – just with a more relaxed measure of what it means to be a success.