A Review of the Chris While & Julie Matthews CD
"Hitting The Ground Running"


"Hitting The Ground Running"
by Chris While & Julie Matthews

Circuit Music FATCD022
http://www.whileandmatthews.co.uk

This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 12/10

There is so much to admire in this album, that this review could easily become a fan letter. But this duo – whose musical partnership of course developed back in the mid 90s when they were key members of The Albion Band – deserve something better than my drooling over their manifest accomplishments. They’d want me to tell it like I see it: even if they might conclude that I am barking up the wrong tree. But, more of that, later. (For as a famous fellow countryman of mine once said: “To begin at the beginning”.)

I settled back to hear two fine performers, still at the top of their game. Between them, they wrote all the songs (with the exception of Ruth Notman lending a hand on the melody of one), and as usual, they both sing like angels. For once though, on the music front, they almost have to take a back seat to their accompanying musicians. It is perhaps invidious to pick one name out, as they all deliver the goods. But I have to say that the guitar work of Howard Lees is exemplary: whether acoustic or electric, his playing is massively authoritative.

There is not a dud song on the album. That said, I did have slight reservations about The Darkside Wood, their big epic narrative song on the 2009 bushfires Down Under: song writing skills do not necessarily transfer between genres with the same ease – say - that money transfers between bank accounts! (Maybe the big narrative ballad is not for them: after all, surely what they are really about is capturing nuance and putting colours on moods. However, perhaps my actual problem with this song was the fact that I felt I detected what were American vowel sounds: this seemed a touch peculiar, particularly as the song is set in Australia! But in fairness, they generally sing in the same English accents as they speak: and that is all you can ask of any artiste.)

Of the remaining ten songs, there are some that stand out more than others. The two high spots for me, were the two up-tempo numbers: the pulsating – wonderfully commercial - title song, and Bridge Over Time (which shakes off the fuddy-duddy and makes archeology seem compellingly vital and relevant to NOW).

The album – produced by the duo - is presented in a handsome Digipak, and all eleven tracks have been crisply recorded, mixed & mastered by Julie. The blessedly legible liner notes started very promisingly: not just containing the lyrics, but the first five songs also have a paragraph or so of thoughtful explanation on how the song came to be written. (I said to myself “How wonderful: I wish every artiste would adopt a similar policy!”).

Alas however, maybe Chris and Julie either ran out of steam, or had doubts as to the efficacy of such an approach, because of the remaining six songs, only two contained any additional introduction, and one of those was an 8 word dedication. (Is that “lack of additional information” a hanging offence? No, of course not.)

But I just want Chris and Julie to know that this is emphatically not nit-picking. Knowing the raison d’ętre behind a song, is meat and drink to lots of us out there. (Other recording artistes who don’t make the effort, please note.) So Chris and Julie: kindly keep the explanatory notes coming on future albums. And let’s hope that your future recordings are as rewarding as this CD.

Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England
daigress@hotmail.com

Copyright © 2010 Dai Woosnam. All rights reserved. All rights reserved.


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