Portland, Oregon’s Matt Takiff is a busy man. He’s a songwriter, a teacher and a muliti-instrumentalist who’s main project Max's Midnight Kitchen, a collaborative effort along with fellow songwriter Daniel Nickerson, has released three full-length records and a recent EP. On top of this Takiff also finds time to play saxophone, guitar, fiddl, and stand in as a harmonic vocalist for other bands around the Portland area. But now Takiff has done something completely for himself, which is to release his first record of solo material under his own name.
But even though Matt Takiff named his album Matt Takiff, and he is a multi-instrumentalist that doesn’t mean he’s alone on his solo debut. Takiff, on top of playing guitar, lead vocals, and saxophone adds depth to his songs on his solo debut by employing other players the likes of Arcellus Sykes on electric bass, Barra Brown on drums, Claire Hinkley on harmony vocals, David Allred on whistling and trumpet, Finn Juhl on accordion and piano, Julio Appling on acoustic bass, Sage Coy on cello, and Sam Weiss on fiddle.
With a cast of characters this large one may expect an album that could go over the top, with long jam sessions searching to satisfy the players hopes as well as the listeners. But Takiff never lets this happen and it’s really rather refreshing. He never lets the background players overshadow him, which is not to say they don’t provide beautiful backup support, though Takiff named the album after himself and makes certain that he runs a tight ship. The backing musicians respectably do their part and they do it well and let Takiff captain the ship.
Matt Takiff sets the troubadour tone for the record on the opener “Some Things” a slow roasted sing-song lament to lost love. Next up on the fiddle friendly “I saw a Bird” Takiff shows off his penchant for storytelling and this continues in a sad vein on the somber, “Who.”
Takiff is not all cut and dry. He takes chances on the odd but fun “The Garden Suite” and goes solo on the short and sweet “Homeless.” Things get interested when he harmonizes beautifully with Claire Hinkley on “Many Nights.” But Takiff is best when he is alone and sad as he displays on the album’s closer “Wordless Melody.”
On his solo debut Takiff displays that he can hold his own, and also that he gets by when he has a little help from his friends. Either way anyone into folk music, either the happy or sad varietal will appreciate the efforts Takiff puts into his songwriting.
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