Reveles' impressive album We'll Meet Halfway is full of old-timey instrumentation: guitar, upright bass, jazz bass, harmonica, fake organ, clarinet, lap steel, Dobro, kazoo, whistle, tambourine, and shakers. Actually, those are just the instruments Reveles himself is credited with playing; he's also got buddies on banjo, piano, drums, and hootin'/hollerin'.
Fancy playin' alone doesn't make an album, but We'll Meet Halfway is full of gorgeous, well-crafted songs that show Reveles sounding equally fresh and timeless. "Danny Boy," which kicks things off after an instrumental blues track, evokes the classic Irish ballad with an advice-giving narrator, but it's a wholly new song and much more rousing than the way you usually hear the classic performed, filled with a great harmonica melody and the layered vocals he uses throughout the disk. Those vocals also sound especially great on "The New One For Reals," which and I don't make this comparison lightly reminds me of Elliot Smith's "Waltz #2."
And, no, there's no "Say Yes" on We'll Meet Halfway, but "On a Freeway Overpass" is pretty spectacular, painting images of freeways being built and landmarks being torn town, that seem very Phoenix-y, while also recalling classic singer-songwriters of the past few decades.
By the closer, the vaudevillian "Do Due Dew," I was sold on Matthew Reveles. I realize I've drawn some big comparisons in this review between him and masters of the craft he's practicing, but We'll Meet Halfway is a special record, certainly one of the best local offerings I've heard this year.
Wed., April 29, 9 p.m., 2009