By, Tom Baldino
The new CD from the Matt O’Ree Band is the creation of husband and wife team, Matt and Eryn O’Ree, aided by their road-tested band. With Matt on guitar and vocals, Eryn on vocals and mandolin, Lex Lehman on bass, John Hummel on drums, Layonne Holmes on vocals, and Matt Wade of Samantha Fish’s touring band on keys, they are a formidable lineup.
The eleven original tracks kick off with “Whole Lotta Nothin,” a song that draws you in with a great guitar riff and Matt’s immediately recognizable vocals. When the band joins in full force, a whole lotta nothin’ sure does feel like something good! “Walking On The Edge of My Dreams” opens with a drum volley by John and features Eryn’s powerful vocals on this minor chord gem. Another great guitar line is the backbone of this song with a solo that punctuates this number. Layonne’s terrific backing vocals take this song to another level, as her mother Delores did for Bruce. The lyrics and shared vocals of “Can’t Undo” sound like the pledge Matt and Eryn made when they married and chose this life and musical journey together. This is a solid song with heartfelt emotion that lets the world know how they feel about each other, and the listener is all the better for it.
“Stepping Stone” showcases Eryn’s vocals on this beautiful ballad that is framed by Matt’s guitar and Matt Wade’s keyboards, with the superb rhythm section of John and Lex lending just the right touch. “Wake Up and Live” offers up the great phrase “don’t count the days, make the days count” which certainly is a good motto to live by. Matt adds some nice slide that channels his inner Duane Allman. “Better As I Go” starts with a unique drum pattern by John that gets this funky rocker moving. Eryn’s vocals and Matt’s guitar proceed to make this song jump right out of the speakers.
“So Lonely,” the only song where someone outside the band, in this case Kristin Rose Kelly, is given a co-writing credit. It features Eryn on vocals and eloquently explores the human condition with her plaintive refrain, “why you so lonely.” On “I’ll Be Your Shotgun,” you can see them rolling down the interstate in their tour bus nicknamed “Etta,” with Matt driving and Eryn his shotgun for life, referencing some very famous couples along the way. They also did something clever that not many bands do, Steely Dan comes to mind with “Katy Lied,” that is to title the CD with a phrase in the song. The tune has a country vibe but John’s driving drums ensures it doesn’t stray from the MOB sound. Another ballad follows, and Matt uses some effects on his guitar which definitely work to highlight the melody. It sounds as if this song were done as a power trio, with some great soloing included. The penultimate track, “Tore Up From the Floor Up” is a hard charging rocker, the kind of song that the band does so well live. Again, a great hook defines this number and makes it a real head bobber! The last track, “He Loves Me Anyway,” sums up what makes a relationship, whether personal or musical, work in real life. It should be He/She in the title, as they both talk about the things that define their personalities in alternating verses, with love being the thing that lets them accept these traits and live this life they lead. It’s a fragile tune, carried by acoustic guitar and what sounds like bongos, but it illustrates the solid foundation their career and lives are built on.
The disc was recorded at what seems to be the go-to studio for local musicians, Shorefire in Long Branch, by Joe DeMaio. The sound is top notch and I’m thinking this is the CD that will get them to the next level. They certainly deserve it.