River Matthews grew up on a diet of music from the 60s and 70s: Cat Stevens, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones to name but a few. Not only do all these artists have an implicit understanding of humanity, and an excellent way with words, they have an inbuilt sense of melody too. It’s little surprise then that these traits have brushed off on Matthews. Picking up his first guitar at the age of 7, Matthews spent a long time ruminating on all the trappings of life before putting pen to paper. His days playing cover songs in local pubs, to working as a musical therapy teacher, all structured the tapestry from which he now works.
Imogen is a collection of songs that primarily focuses on love on all its multifarious guises. Sunshine opens the album with a rhythmic feel good song that’s rapturously influences from gospel music.
Stars is an ode to his family, including his niece Imogen, who the album is named after. Undo Ordinary praises enduring love while the mournful Fool For You reminisces about lost love. Never throws away the more pairs down elements of the album, opting for a big brass sound that enhances the retro sound of his music.
A cover of House of the Rising Sun is a stunning addition to the album. Here Matthews performs uncaged in a truly heartfelt way, shredding his vocals in the process. The result is a magnificent, and possibly the best interpretation of The Animals track. Where does he go from here? Nowhere, which is why it’s a perfect place to wrap up an album that’s tinged with beauty, tainted by heartache and wrapped in a glowing optimism that’s impossible to shake off. After supporting Rag N’ Bone Man on his UK tour and completing his sold-out headline shows, Matthews has established as one of the UK’s most distinctive performers. Once you’ve heard the album you are sure to fall under the spell of River Matthews’ soulful vocal and vintage sparkle.
Groupie Rating 4/5