Mat Kearney - City Of Black And White (Sony)

David Spencer | Saturday, 06 June 2009

Mat Kearney - City Of Black And White (Sony)

Oregon's Mat Kearney is one of many singer-songwriters from the US that haven't yet made even the smallest ripple in the UK. With Jason Mraz finally getting the recognition he deserves, perhaps it's Mat's turn to take the spotlight.

New listeners will be fooled into thinking Chris Martin has embarked on a solo career, because the similarity at times between the two is extraordinary. Mix in a little Darden Smith to make it less whiney, and you have the exact ingredients for Mat Kearney. This is his second album, but it's a huge step up from his 2006 debut. It has a bigger sound and an air of ambition and intent, born from successful tours with the likes of The Fray and Sheryl Crow.

Opener 'All I Have' is a slightly corny, thumpingly acoustic guitar-driven song about heartbreak. You can hear the shiny Nashville production instantly. 'Fire And Rain' and 'Here We Go' follow a similar template with love and loss as its subject, and although the production is polished, it doesn't squeeze the life out of the songs.

'Closer To Love' is the US single, with a gentle keyboard backing interrupted by drum beats after 30 seconds before the big chorus. Kearney sings about being "one phone call from our needs", and he tells us it's a song about how just one ring of the phone can bring bad news.

'Lifeline' and 'New York to California' are songs inspired by his extensive touring of the last few years, and follow the simple but effective style of the previous tracks, although the latter is the most obvious so far that could soundtrack an episode of Brothers and Sisters or One Tree Hill.

Other highlights include 'Annie' and 'Straight Away' but there isn't a bad track here. Kearney says he listened a lot to U2's 'War' while making this, and while that's not really evident, other hero Tom Petty is more noticeably referenced.

There's nothing particularly clever or original on this album, but how much of today's music is? Mat Kearney has a wonderfully pained vocal and mixes this with terrific tunes that creep up on you so quickly, you find yourself singing along to every track before you know it.

Rating: 4.5/5