Matt Andersen, Halfway Home By Morning, album review, Martine Ehrenclou, Rock and Blues Muse

By Martine Ehrenclou

Canadian soul-bluesman, Matt Andersen is set to release his latest and 10th album, Halfway Home By Morning on March 22nd via True North Records.

It’s no wonder Matt Andersen has won two European Blues Awards for Best Solo/Acoustic act and eight Maple Blues Awards for Entertainer of the Year and Vocalist of the Year, a Juno Award and more. One drop of the needle on this album and you’ll hear not only a powerhouse vocalist with tons of soul, but winning songs written by a natural storyteller—Matt Andersen. And that’s not all—the production by Juno award-winner Steve Dawson and the group of outstanding musicians on the record, create an all-stars-aligned kind of feeling as you listen to the 13 tracks.

Albums like Halfway Home By Morning don’t come along very often, records where everything seems to come together–stellar vocals that move you, outstanding musicianship from everyone involved, songs that tell stories, and production that brings it all together. Halfway Home By Morning leaps out of your speakers with sparkle and shine. It’s clear that a lot of care and attention to detail went into making it.

Upon hearing the opening track, “What Would Your Mama Say” I couldn’t help but think, “That voice.” Andersen has a voice that opens doors, causes people who see him live to put down their drinks, lures them to lean in closer to the stage. This song and others had me reaching for the volume knob on my stereo so I could listen more closely to the vocals, the easy going groove, the guitar riffs, the backing singers, the organ fills, the horn section, and more.

Melodic acoustic and electric guitar riffs kick off “Free Man” that lead into  Matt Andersen’s full-bodied voice. What a song with Andersen at the helm. Great rhythm and a full on band, complete with tight horn section, make this song a backyard barbeque with all your favorite people or a dance floor with plenty of passion and verve. Andersen sings about leaving worries behind, about taking the uncharted course, and feeling free because of it. Nice bass run too, along with a lively short organ solo by Chris Gestrin.

With a naturally beautiful voice, Andersen could sing anything he wanted to I’d imagine, but he chooses songs that are authentic and real.

“Something to Lose” a slower shuffle, features Andersen and killer vocalist Amy Helm, singing harmonies. It’s a moving love song with a touch of country, and Andersen’s husky voice paired with Helm’s crystal bell-like vocals, create some kind of magic. If you only listen to one song on the album let it be this one. Lovely chord changes add to the full sound of this band, and the horns give it a Stax feel in places. “I’m going to love you like I’ve got something to lose.” That says it all right there.

The album is flush with catchy acoustic guitar solos courtesy of Andersen and Steve Dawson, and on “The Bed I Made” Andersen and Ian Janes. It’s a rhythmic number with horn flourishes (horn arrangements courtesy of Charles Rose and Steve Hermann) that’ll get you out of your chair to move.

A standout track, “Better Than You Want” has Andersen digging deep vocally on a country-ish blues, R&B soul number—yes, all three, with a fun bass line and tight horn fills. With acoustic guitar riffs and a swampy feel, this is some song.

The entire album is full of great tunes, and you can’t always say that. If you enjoy the combination of acoustic blues, R&B and soul, this is for you. The musicianship, with a cast of too many to mention here, is exquisite. The entire album is pulled together with an expert hand.

Andersen has the ability to scale back his voice when the song calls for it, from soft and soulful to bold that cuts through the mix—never losing what seems like innate soulfulness. His vocals can grab just about any listener but in addition he’s got guitar chops to match.

The record closes with “Quarter On The Ground,” a standout that opens with Andersen on acoustic guitar and vocals. It’s beautiful in its simplicity. Sometimes when you scale back distractions, it allows the true quality to shine. Andersen’s vocals are stunning here and his acoustic guitar playing is equally as bright.

Halfway Home By Morning feels like a big album. It offers beautifully written songs, both lyrically and musically. Listen to it in its entirety as it’s not a batch of singles, but a complete story.

For more information on Matt Andersen and Halfway Home By Morning: