Many longtime music fans view the jam band genre, popularized in the late 1960s by bands such as The Grateful Dead among scores of others, as rife with self-indulgence. Matt Glickman’s songwriting and performances, however, offer a stirring rebuttal to that fallacy. His new release Live from Starks, Maine 10.1.22 features seven songs, six originals, and highlights both his flair for highly musical keyboard playing as well as an underlying idiosyncratic intelligence. The raw, unvarnished spark of inspiration is another quality that the recording captures for listeners and it helps make these seven performances an invigorating listening experience.
It doesn’t take any significant amount of time for that experience to assert itself. “Steady as Footprints” leads off the release in fine fashion with its inspired piano playing and Glickman drawing from a bounty of piano melodies that physically engage listeners while often uplifting them as well. The lyrics that Glickman pens for this track are among the album’s best and the effective yet understated imagery prevalent throughout the piece helps make this kickoff track one of the most indelible moments on the album.
“Color Fields” has an extended piano introduction before Glickman even sings the song’s first line. It deserves mentioning that, despite favoring predominantly instrumental compositions, Glickman always finds an ear-catching compromise between each song’s lyrical and musical components. “Secrets of the Sages” wears its authority lightly. What this means is that it establishes itself with listeners from the first without ever imposing itself on listeners. His ongoing capacity for effective melodies stands out here and, once again, he’s written excellent lyrics for a largely instrumental track.
His lead vocals dominate the bulk of “Leave It to Me”, but Darby Sabin’s complementary vocal touches prove to be a deciding factor for this song’s excellence. Many listeners will likely hear this album for the first time convinced that a song cycle relying on little more than vocals and piano will undoubtedly flag, but songs such as this prove them wrong.
“Best > Steady as Footprints Tease” apes the format the Grateful Dead often adopted for seamless transitions from one arrangement into the next, but the majority of the performance centers on “Best”. It’s a potent piece of popular songcraft distinguished as ever by the seamless blending of Glickman’s voice, the lyrics, and his piano accompaniment. The album concludes with a sprawling nearly 20-minute-long cover version of the underrated Grateful Dead cut “Unbroken Chain”.
It’s a particular favorite with hardcore Deadheads and such listeners will likely rejoice over Glickman’s astonishing reworking of the song. It proves, if nothing else, that the Dead’s lesser-known material shares the same appealing attributes as the more well-known material. His piano playing and singing alike are at the forefront and prove to be worth the price of purchase alone. Let’s hope that Matt Glickman follows up on this live release soon with a studio outing under his own name. There’s ample evidence strewn over these seven tracks that it’s well worth the effort and certain to pay enormous, plus immediate, dividends for artist and listeners alike.
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