Matthew Hartz | A Steady Sense of Feel

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United States - Idaho

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Pop: Folky Pop Folk: Free-folk Moods: Mood: Dreamy
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A Steady Sense of Feel

by Matthew Hartz

Genre: Pop: Folky Pop
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Big Man
2:43 $0.99
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2. Cry
4:37 $0.99
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3. Mrs. Johnson
3:29 $0.99
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4. Lower Side of Love (Hey, Little Girl)
3:55 $0.99
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5. Said She'd Be Gone Away
3:11 $0.99
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6. Baby, Don't Lose Your Mind
3:04 $0.99
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7. Old Man
5:19 $0.99
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8. Jenny
4:07 $0.99
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9. You Never Know
3:07 $0.99
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10. Baby, Hold On
3:55 $0.99
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11. Run, Run, Run
2:37 $0.99
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12. Sister's Okay
2:22 $0.99
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13. A Sunny Day
3:37 $0.99
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14. Gus
4:33 $0.99
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15. Cry (1st Demo)
5:00 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


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Big Wheel

Steady as He Goes
When a musical artist becomes really well known for doing one thing really, really well, it can be a challenge for him to branch out in another artistic direction and venture into uncharted creative territory. But it may also be a challenge for some fans of the artist, as often they are perfectly content to have said artist repeat himself. It is comfortable and convenient to hear over and over again what it was that got them interested in the artist in the first place. But a true artist will always follow his muse wherever it may lead him. Sometimes for better and sometimes, not so much. But pure, creative expression can seldom be reasoned with.
Such is the case with singer-songwriter Matthew Hartz and his latest album, A Steady Sense of Feel. Hartz has been a fixture on the old time music scene since his early teens when he demonstrated prodigious musical gifts for fiddling and rhythm guitar and went on to become a nationally recognized fiddle champion. Albums and touring followed and the awards, accolades, and championship titles piled up. Hartz remains one of the most sought after rhythm pickers at any fiddle contest he attends.
And so, some fans of Hartz’s fiddling may be taken aback by the fact he has released a self-described “pop album”. But the bigger surprise for them may just be how damn good the album is.
A Steady Sense of Feel opens up full throttle with an infectious toe tapper, head bobber called “Big Man”, which adroitly sets the musical table for what is ultimately a satisfying multi-course aural feast. Hartz serves up a well-balanced mix of fist-pump rockers, heart-worn ballads, and middle-of-the road-groove-alongs, which unfold effortlessly and organically from start to finish.
Calling it a pop rock album is completely accurate but does not quite do the music justice. You hear shimmering mandolin work by Terry Ludiker, but this is not bluegrass. You hear sublime bluesy fiddle licks from Hartz himself, but this is not country or jazz. You feel jam band funk fused with a hint of old time string band, flavored with a classic rock finish and it is all of these things and none of these things all at once.
When looking at these different elements coming together on paper, one might be tempted to label such a project as “experimental”. But upon hearing the end result, it becomes obvious that Hartz is not merely throwing musical whims against the studio walls to see what might stick. We are in the hands of someone who is assured in his creative voice and confident in his vision, and the genre blending is seamless. And while Hartz affectionately and reverently wears his musical influences on his sleeve (Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, even a wink and a nod to Tommy Tutone) the effect is timeless, contemporary, and wholly original, not the least bit retro or derivative.
Being an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, Hartz knows talent in others when he hears it and on A Steady Sense of Feel, he shows excellent taste and wisdom in surrounding himself with a team of top shelf musical support. These are not simply anonymous, high priced, hired gun session players, but good friends who know Hartz, trust his songwriting skills and understand his musical sensibilities. All of this comes through in the recordings loud and clear. Despite the obvious, instrumental prowess of each musician, there is no showboating. One feels a collaboration of steadfast attention in giving due diligence to each song on its own terms and the album as a whole.
Kudos is also due to the recording engineer department (Stuart Havlicak) as the music is well served by the overall warm and welcoming production. The listener feels invited to an intimate performance in the artist’s bedroom, only it has been outfitted with state of the art recording equipment manned by audiophiles who know how to use it. The quality is crisp, clean, and bright without being too polished. No saccharine sheen here. There is a handcrafted vibe to the entire audio experience but those hands belong to sonic veterans.
There are songs on this album meant to test car speakers while driving along the highway with the windows rolled down on a warm summer day. (“Run, Run, Run”, “Said She’d Be Gone Away”, “Mrs. Johnson”, “You Never Know”) Other songs seem tailor made to live and breathe as headphone soundtrack music for lazing on the couch on an overcast autumn afternoon, when you just don’t feel like answering the phone. (“Gus”, “Cry”, “Baby, Don’t Lose Your Mind”)
If there is one loveable black sheep on the album, it is track 7. Arguably the most groundbreaking song in the group, one might consider it Hartz’s tip of the hat to his fiddling roots. “Old Man,” with its playfully sinister hook, is book-ended by a blistering live recording from a contest in Texas of Hartz performing “Say Old Man, Can You Play Fiddle?”, one of the most famous fiddle compositions of all time. But this musical/lyrical melding (I believe the kids today call it a “mash-up”) of old time music and contemporary rock and roll is unlike anything you’re likely to have ever heard before. But its uniqueness is not at the expense of this unquestionably cohesive collection of songwriting craft. Hearing these songs during initial listening sessions was a lot like being introduced to people for the first time but realizing right away you’ve just met some new best friends.
While this reviewer has been a fan of Matthew Hartz the fiddler since the beginning of his career, it has been a genuine pleasure to get to know Matthew Hartz the singer songwriter. Here’s hoping that A Steady Sense of Feel is but the first of more to come.
Steady onward, Mr. Hartz.
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