Mat D and the Profane Saints - Holyoke
Mat DeRiso's voice isn't going to find him trying out for American Idol anytime soon. It's not that he's pitchy (dawg), but he sings like he recently chased a Brillo pad with a double-shot of something off the bottom shelf at a rural route dive. That might not win him a plum spot on Clearchannel next to Joe Nichols, but it certainly makes these dusty roadhouse rockers and folksy laments all the more lived in.
From song titles like "Gambling Girls and Guns" and "Aces in a Dead Man's Hand," you'd assume you're in for tales of ne'er-do-wells and outlaws. You'd be correct in thinking that, but these aren't cliché-laden exercises in "genericana." They're well-written and hard-hitting glimpses into the unrepentant lives of murderers, thieves and hard-living regular folks.
The title track is a serpentine mid-tempo track with crisp, bluesy playing and some of Mat D's more restrained (but no less effective) vocals. There's nothing holy about the imagery of this tune as devils and doubters come together on a bleak landscape.
"Eastbound Denver Train" is one of the catchier numbers on Holyoke. It's a shuffling country rocker that sounds like something Johnny Cash could've cut. The guitar work on this track is particularly good.
At times blending together or favoring folk, rock, rockabilly and/or country, Holyoke is a shit-kicker of an album that holds nothing back. There's a beauty and poetry in these hard-sung stories of difficult lives.
RIYL: Scott H. Biram, Shooter Jennings, Tom Waits, Possessed by Paul James, Steve Earle, Left Lane Cruiser.