Matt Hillyer – Glorieta
While some of Matt Hillyer’s vocals will remind one of other well-known singers Matt’s no imitator. For a true assessment of his own vocalizing prowess, I’d start with “Just Passing Through,” with the vintage pedal steel winding through the melody & Hillyer being Hillyer with his clarity & style.
However, by “Glorieta,” Matt’s vocal tone sounds garnished with a sincere Gene Autry retro-flavor. It’s actually charming to listen to. It harkens back to days long gone. Matt manages at the same time to “modernize” the style without falling into corny traps. Autry actually did sing some seriously good material.
In “Stolen Kisses,” & “That’s How You Know,” Matt shifts into a Jimmie Dale Gilmore phrasing which retains the tradition Gilmore’s known for. All done with generous capability & always entertaining. None of these songs come off as novelties. Just clever songwriting & solid performances.
Matt plays guitar & some keyboard. He was the lead singer/songwriter of an established Texas honky-tonk band Eleven Hundred Springs which ended its run in 2021. So, with producer John Pedigo (Old 97’s) Glorieta (Drops Feb 24– State Fair Records) was created by recording 11 pristine tunes over 42 minutes.
With “Ordinary Man,” Matt transcends mainstream country by crafting a haunting fluid country-pop tune. Wonderfully rendered. From this drama Heather Stalling’s fiery fiddle saws into “Dirty Little Secrets,” & again, Matt weaves a vintage style of country & western into a coherent upbeat melodic tune with a punch. The guitar work weaves through the fiddle with ease & their combined sound is exhilarating.
The special ingredients to Matt’s songs are that they’re not just sung with country & western finesse but arranged with cleverness. There’s always an instrumental addition or solo that provides the thick mischief that makes this music infectious. The rock band Steppenwolf often had this ability in their early 60s singles (“Magic Carpet Ride”). Creedence Clearwater Revival knew the recipe as well. Matt has this map memorized.
“Diablo Motel,” is an imaginative noir-type descriptive dark country tune. If Tom Waits were a country songwriter this is what he’d write. Would go well with Waits’ “Adios Lounge.” Along with singers like Grant Maloy Smith this traditional country & western genre is being shined up bright by Grant Maloy Smith & Matt Hillyer. Maybe they’re on to something.
Musicians – James Driscoll (bass), Arjuna Contreras (drums), Chad Stockslager (keys), Lloyd Maines (pedal steel guitar), Abel Casillas (accordion) & Crystal Yates (background vocals).
Highlights – “Ordinary Man,” “Just Passing Through,” “Glorieta,” “Stolen Kisses,” “Dirty Little Secrets,” “What Kind of Fool” & “Diablo Motel.”
Color image courtesy of Matt’s website. CD @ : https://matthillyer.com/