Reading Iain Matthews’ biography not so long back struck me that here was perhaps the most prodigious member of the Fairport family and that he was also the most stylistically diverse.
His latter revival of the Southern Comfort name has created a tidal acoustic/electric wash which manages to marry his American inclinations with a folksy drift, his voice as adaptable as it has been at any point over his 50 years or so in the music business. The songs on ‘The New Mine,’ suggest that the present, all Dutch version are as adept as former band members, with nods to Matthews own history through Plainsong like harmonies and rising and falling guitars.
Everything falls so easily on the ear, there are great lead licks and woozy keyboard fills, you could say there’s an element of J.J. Cale, laid back and comfortable. But that’d be unfair as Matthews has his eyes both on the present and the future, what he sees and sings isn’t always good time. The version of Joni Mitchell’s stark ‘Ethiopia,’ still sends shivers down my spine and Iain’s vocals emphasise lyrics that tell it like it is, ‘walking sticks on burning plains/ betrayed by politics abandoned by the rains,’ or ‘ the TV star with a PR smile calls your baby ‘it’/while strolling through your tragic trails.’ ‘In My Next Life,’ isn’t regret but caution, ‘ I’ll be a wiser man/no matter what it takes/I’ll learn from my mistakes,’ he croons genuinely wanting to be better, learning lessons is the idea, find fulfilment and stick with it.
A mirror to his own life in many respects, ‘The New Mine,’ shows him once more excelling in the group format and the beginning of a rich seam of music, warm and melodic. The album’s far more attractive and beguiling than you’d expect. More power to them I say, long may Southern Comfort run.