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Amigo Row

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Album Review

The second album from former Butterglory leader Matt Suggs, Amigo Row, is no great departure from his first solo venture. For that, fans of intelligent guitar pop can be glad. Suggs still writes songs imbued with a sense of understated melodicism and wit and he has assembled a stellar group to back him. The songs are wrapped in a warm blanket of acoustic guitars, flowing electric guitar melodies, horns, strings, pianos, and percussion that create a nice blend of the dramatic and the organic. His voice is still an uncanny blend of Ray Davies and Al Stewart, and the songs have the classic storytelling feel of the songs of those two as well. Throw in Phil Lynott at his folkiest and perhaps Stephen Malkmus at his most focused and you have a rough idea of the ground Suggs is covering. The only problem is that the album is front-loaded. The first three tracks are so good the rest of the record pales in comparison. The leadoff track, "Father," is a moody post-murder ballad that sets the dramatic tone for the disc, "Darling Hannah" is the best track on the record (sounding like an unholy alliance of the soft rock of Jackson Browne and the Berlin drama of early-'90s Nick Cave), and "Calm Down" is the most energetic song on the album, bouncing along like a classic pub rock singalong, like an Eddie & the Hot Rods tune. How often have you heard that comparison lately? Not that the rest of the album is weak. It is not even close. "New Year" is a wonderfully downcast piano ballad, "Frontier Towne (O Janie") is a midtempo track that features Suggs' most dramatic vocal and a killer chorus with surprising falsetto background vocals, "Clementine" has a rustic feel, sort of like it was recorded at Big Pink. Matt Suggs didn't let the promise exhibited on his first disc slip away; he actually has gotten better, with his songwriting, his singing, and his arranging and production skills all blooming like sweet-smelling roses. How often have you heard that lately?

Biography

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

After doing four albums as half of the indie pop duo Butterglory in the '90s, Matt Suggs made an impressive solo debut with Golden Days Before They End in 2000. Suggs' wry, laconic delivery is quite reminiscent of that of the Kinks' Ray Davies, as are his melodic and quirky tunes. He's not a total Davies knockoff, though, with more of an American roots...
Full bio
Amigo Row, Matt Suggs
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