Artist: Matt Haeck
Album: Late Bloomer
Label: Blast Records
Release Date: 06/03/2016
Matt Haeck has made an extraordinary album. If in fact it is, as its title suggests, his debut, it’s that much more remarkable, because artists generally don’t display this kind of mastery until they’re well into the peak period of their careers. (It ought to be noted that the facts are a matter of conjecture; a 2008 album called Pair of Sirens is also credited to one Matt Haeck.) Nevertheless, we’ll judge this effort on its own merits. Haeck has quite a backstory, one filled with false starts, pitfalls, personal demons and unexpected detours. Somehow, through it all, he gathered the determination to express himself in song, and what’s emerged is one of the most articulate outings in recent memory, an album that doesn’t defy the parameters of Americana but, rather, reflects its values with an assurance and confidence that already places it comfortably and completely amongst the finest examples of the genre.
That’s evident on first hearing, even on its initial offering. “Tennessee,” a song with a decidedly down home swagger, is such an emphatic and engaging introduction, it sounds practically cinematic in its scope. Happily too, that first impression is borne out in every song — and we mean every song — that follows, be it the down home strum and sway of the lovely “Minnie Pearl,” the poetic plea bound to “Belt,” the spark and celebration accompanying “28 Years,” or the simple, subdued reverence instilled in “Couldn’t Say Yes (Till I Learned To Say No).” Notably, those tracks encompass less than half the album, but they’re all it takes to convince any open-minded observer that Haeck has made his masterpiece, even this early on. His lyrics are literate to the point where they seem to spring from a poet’s pen.
“I’ve lost my patience with people/And I’ve lost some face to my friends/But I ain’t lost nothing like you before/And I know I never will again.”
Despite the fact they’re found in a song Haeck didn’t compose (they’re written by his friend Benjamin Douglas), those lines from “Belt” sum up the heartbreak, despair and disappointment that come when a man’s not only lost the love of his life, but the whole of his life as well. The poignancy is palpable, and Haeck’s willingness to open himself up and express his fears and vulnerability reflect the skills and savvy of a man who’s giving his all, not only as artistic expression for himself, but also as a gift to the rest of us as well. If in fact Late Bloomer is the belated entry he claims it to be, then it’s clearly one really wonderful record that was well worth waiting for.