Matt Russell - Climbing
Debut Album From NJ Singer-
Songwriter Matt Russell
© Danny Brown

Feb 13, 2007

Matt Russell 'Climbing' Apology Records - Matt Russell.net

Recorded during a time of personal upheaval, Climbing is the debut album from Matt Russell. Stripped musically and emotionally charged, it's available on Apology Records

* Genre: Singer-songwriter
* Sounds like: Bruce Springsteen, Judd Cole
* Home: New Jersey/New York
* Matt Russell.net

From Recourse To Redemption

Visit the website of the inaugural New Jersey Hall Of Fame, and you’ll see some illustrious names. There are the obvious ones (Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra and Buzz Aldrin) to the less immediate, but no less important, nominees (Yogi Berra, Toni Morrison and Clara Barton). With the release of Climbing, a future name to share with these luminaries might well be that of Matt Russell.

Carving a path similar to Springsteen’s seminal Nebraska album, Climbing assays the listener with a raw collection of songs both personal and redeeming. Honest, sometimes painfully blunt music that mixes hope amongst despair, it’s an often bleak catharsis, yet it’s this very pain that allows the record its depth.

A Ghost For A New Generation

Title track Climbing is a bittersweet account of feeling pressurised into something uncertain, with the need for security an ever-present factor. When Russell sings ‘I’d have preferred to pass time below / I’d risk difference to forgo feeling risk’, it’s with a voice both wretched and alone.

The Springsteen comparison is visible throughout the album, yet not in a plagiaristic way. Listen to Awake and immediately you’re transported to the Boss’s revered The Ghost Of Tom Joad album. Yet instead of showing a weakness in musical originality, it elevates Russell to a shared platform with such a distinguished peer.

Perhaps it’s because of his vocal style that the comparisons between Russell and Springsteen are so evident. With a voice sounding like it’s been soaked in a barrel of bourbon, then dried off with the heat of a thousand cigarettes, it’s the equivalent of an old gnarly oak tree, and the songs are all the better for it.

If Climbing is an album recorded through trauma, then Daybreak is the epitomy of that period. An extra melancholy is added to the track with the use of a double bass as accompaniment. Describing the feeling of total loss, Daybreak is Russell at his lowest emotional point. This is not surprising, when you learn that the recording of the album was during a moving of house to another part of the country completely, and his wife had to go without him. The feeling of desolation and isolation is tantamount.

Honesty Through Pain

This honesty is felt throughout Climbing. Songs like Before The Bus Ride, with its lyric ‘If I blame you I feel fine’ striking a chord with anyone and everyone whose ever been through a painful separation, and My Way Home, where Russell determines to ‘swing low on another day’, are personal and open. It may not make for comfortable listening at times, yet it is never anything less than attention holding stuff.

When the winners of this year’s New Jersey Hall of Fame are announced, it must surely be a given that Bruce Springsteen is an inductee. With Climbing, Matt Russell has produced an album of sparse beauty that the Boss himself would be proud of. Maybe that Hall of Fame will have another singer-songwriter walking the halls before too long.