Scott Matthews’ new record, The Great Untold, is a career-defining masterpiece. The sixth studio album by the Ivor Novello Award-winning singer-songwriter is the one that many have craved: it is a masterclass in honesty, instinct and reflection.
A largely acoustic recording, Matthews’ sublime new record features sparse production. Recorded at home and in acoustically resonant rural churches, instrumentation has been jettisoned. His ten-song cycle is the sound of a man comfortable in his own skin, putting his neck on the line with a collection of otherworldly songs.
The ghosts of Paul Simon, Tim Buckley, Nick Drake and John Martyn loom large on a collection that ranks alongside work by some of the world’s great singer-songwriters. On his sixth record, Matthews has created songs that are breathtaking in their beauty and audacious in their simplicity.
The absence of drums, bass, cello and flute on The Great Untold, however, should not infer that it lacks depth. Far from it. The richness in Matthews’ new work comes from subtle playing and mellifluous melodies. He has improved again. He has become a master of his craft; a man who can play like Bert Jansch, sing like an angel and write songs that Joni Mitchell might admire.
In many ways, The Great Untold is the start of a new era for Matthews. Since his debut album, Passing Stranger, in 2006, the Wolverhampton-born star of bluesy acoustica has refined his craft. Writing deft and sensitive songs during a trajectory that begin with the ethereal ‘Elusive’, The Great Untold marks a new beginning.
The first great arc of his career was completed with his Home duology; a stunning pair of records that reflected on his journey thus far. The Great Untold is the sound of a man moving on. Matthews is recently married, soon-to-experience fatherhood and has new hopes and fears, new stories to tell. “After Home Part 2 was finished, I was looking to move forward by marrying harmony with my experiences since the last record. The plan to write an acoustic record has always been there. And finally the time is right to do that.”
Matthews has tested himself as a songwriter. The absence of a band means he is vulnerable and exposed. But, in many ways, it was ever thus. He started as a soloist and is ready to fly alone. It opens new possibilities, a different type of challenge. “It takes me out of my comfort zone and has made me test myself. I’ve pared it down to guitar and vocals. At the beginning, there was nobody else. It’s time to surprise myself. It’s time to go back to my own world. I’ve gone full circle.”
Lyrically, The Great Untold is a work with poetic intent. “It’s a collection of songs that lots of people will relate to. It’s a real mood-shift of a record. The songs always start from a personal angle, but listeners will hear them in different ways. When I’m writing, I’m almost hearing voices from The Masters and thinking: ‘Would they approve?’”
The point is to make a connection. “I want to move somebody with the power of moods and music. It’s very powerful stuff.”
It is in the right hands. And that’s an apposite description for The Great Untold. It is a record written by a man at the peak of his powers, by a musician able to channel great beauty in songs that reveal the most human of truths.
UK HEADLINE TOUR DATES 2018
April – 28th – Ashford – Revelation
- 1st – Norwich Arts Centre
3rd Cardiff – The Globe
4th London – Union Chapel
5th Liverpool – Music Room at Philharmonic
6th Manchester – Band on the Wall
8th Newcastle – The Cluny
9th Glasgow – Broadcast
10th Edinburgh – Voodoo Rooms
11th Leeds – Brudenell
15th Oxford – SJE Arts
16th Bristol – The Lantern
17th Minack Theatre
20th Birmingham – St Paul’s Church
23rd Dublin – Sugar Club
25th Winchester – Guildhall
26th Isle of Wight – Quay Arts
31st Sheffield – Greystones