Yearlings recorded Ian Kippax Matthews' new record "Street Hymns"
They were Ian's band for the project and it's a bewdy, Check it out here
Check out this review

Much like I’ve always wanted to be a professional baseball player, I’ve always wanted to be a musician. I’ve just never wanted to learn to be a musician. Every time I try, I lose my patience.  I’m a writer, which isn’t something I remember first learning, so perhaps that’s why I don’t remember losing my patience in that learning process.  I’ve spent most of my life working on that craft, and even published in a few modest places, but I have a fantasy of what my life would be like if I could play piano or guitar and sing along with my writing:  a perfect life.  Of course, this assumes that learning to play an instrument automatically comes with a knack for lyricism.  Wrong.  

It takes a specific kind of writer to compile the magic words that will fit perfectly with music, just as it takes a specific kind of musician to write the music in the first place.  There are many examples of this talent, but sadly, not many of late.  Most of the attempts sound to me like…well…what my own attempt would be like:  a good try and ultimately a bad song. The best of the best not only master the composition and words, but also the delivery, pacing, and overall energetic journey of the album. Ian Kippax Matthews’ and his most recent album Street Hymns is a solid home run, with a few great moments of excitement, like a slide into home plate right before the ball sails into the catcher’s mitt. 

Street Hymns is exactly as it title suggests, this compilation of scrappy, down to earth folk and blues tunes seem to worship the most ordinary aspects of life, and the mysterious, beautiful musical instrumentation and melodies most certainly invite us to join in the worship, to be swept away.  Matthews pulls at music’s strongest roots through his exclusive use of acoustic instruments that have seemingly been around since the beginning of time:  piano, strumming guitar, banjo, light drums, strings, bass, even organ.  I admit to loving this combination of instruments more than almost any other, but I’ll also admit it’s not always used in an original enough way to warrant lack of instrumental experimentation.  Matthews and his band experiment in other ways—track order, lyrics—and even if they didn’t, the beauty of these compositions might just carry this album along anyway.  

Guitar slides and light guitar picking create the gentle, harmonized opening to the folky first track “Riding On.” Matthews lets the sandpaper aspect of his voice to rise to the surface, wonderfully juxtaposing the sweetness of the instrumentation, which continues with guitar that mirrors and expands on the melody in the background.  The instrumental vs vocal timbre structure also appears in the more country tinged  “Rattling Rail” and “Love Letter” toward the end of the album.  This contrast combined with his skill for poetry in this tune sets the perfect tone for the album—textured and gorgeous and ever fascinating: “Years like days in love unfazed/Just like men that dream/Fish and bread without an end/And mountains cast in the seas.” 

He follows the beautiful opener with “Slaves,” which shocks the listener with a very different vocal timbre, less like Tom Waits, more like Cat Stevens, complete with that slight lilt at the end of the first few phrases. The instrumentation doesn’t feel very different from the first track, as it’s also quite mellow, but in fact guitar is far from alone in the background.  “Slaves” features the softest, most delicate organ background I’ve ever heard, percussion which sounds like a tambourine joining along with drums, and a lovely, low, melancholy electric guitar solo. 

“White Boy Singing Hymns” is where the instrumentation noticeably shifts roles from background to an almost chorus role, equal placement within the multiple vocal harmonies.  The tune begins with a steady, prominent drumbeat and possibly maracas, a rhythm which banjo and acoustic guitar later echo when they arrive.  Tiny moments of banjo solos rise from the thick sound, as do larger electric guitar solos. A vocal chameleon to be sure, Matthews blends the Cat Stevens essence and Tom Waits essence in this tune, a perfect base vocal for the smooth, layered harmonies.

This talent for highlighting specific vocal characteristics continues in “Long Boats,” which is easily my favorite song on the album—a ballad, beginning with only ‘oooos’ in unison vocals and a heartbreaking piano melody.  Then, Matthews enters with his voice—not just Waits, or just Stevens, or just a combination, but adding a little hint of Joe Cocker! He echoes the instrumentation of this track in the later, more bluesy tune “PS,” and he echoes the Joe Cocker addition to his vocal blend in the (much darker, much angrier) piece “Wealth.”  

These vocal shifts are not impersonation, either.  They’re almost imperceptible changes of depth and delivery that work so perfectly for each song it’s mind blowing.  Also, along with the stunning piano melody, tambourine joins up again, and later long, electric guitar drones as well.  And the end of “Long Boats,” well…its shift is so layered and deepened there’s no point in trying to explain how fantastic it feels to hear it.  So, go hear it!  

The tracks “Move It” and “Adeline,” while very different in mood and vocals, they both experiment with style and featured instruments.  “Move It” features that Tom Waits essence again, but this time highlights the banjo more prominently than the guitar, except for a few electric guitar slides that rise like smoke from seemingly dark, mysterious places in the tune.  “Adeline,” another favorite of mine, starts with piano again, and I’m tricked into thinking its going to stay lovely and lilting along, like a combination of the styles of “Slaves,” and “Long Boats,” then…it morphs into a full on country waltz.  In fact, so does the second to last track, “Sweet Release,” though “Sweet Release” is more of a bar waltz, one sung by a tipsy crowd.  

“Adeline” is wonderfully sweet:  piano chords, 1,2,3,1,2,3 drum pattern, and harmonizing vocals in the chorus.  It’s happy: “Your sweet sassy smile transfixed me a while/You knew that I looked at you more than I should/When you lifted your bow, you let me know/it was fine it was understood.”  It could be play at a barn dance.  And though I’ve never been to one, some days I can’t imagine anything more fantastic than a barn dance. 

The last track, “Red, Black, and Blue” is another piano ballad to end the album with the power of melancholy, tenderness, and Matthews’ brilliant, image based lyrics.  The naturalness of his voice in this tune is breathtaking—it wavers a little, trails off at the end of phrases, the piano fading not too far behind every time.  It feels traditional, this duet.  Heartfelt, sad, and full of texture and color.   

Back to the whole ‘home run’ thing.  Not only is Street Hymns a solid hit with a slide or two of excitement, not only is it scrappy and celebratory of every human emotion, but it’s also nuanced.  It’s not just the action of the ball field, but the grass, the smell, the sound of the ball against a bat, a ball into a glove. Ian Kippax Matthews has revealed a world of his own, reminiscent of a different era, a simpler, more genuine time. It’s one of those ‘everything’ albums that you can get lost inside and put on repeat for days so you never really have to come out. I still haven’t.  This is, from all angles, a gorgeous smash hit.

Artist:  Ian Kippax Matthews

Album: Street Hymns

Reviewed by Alice Neiley

Rating:  5 stars out of 5.  

usa feb 2012

Debut Album Revisited


Sunday August 2nd, Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide.


The Yearlings will perform their first, self-titled album in its entirety for the first time since releasing it in January 2003.

It’s an anniversary of sorts, being 12 years old now and the album has been unavailable for many years, so there will be a limited number of CDs pressed, repackaged and exclusively available at the Wheatsheaf Hotel show.

Recorded in 8 hours on a stinking hot day, live to 2-inch tape at Mixmasters Studios in the Adelaide Hills on 23 November 2002, their eponymous record was released on the Reckless Records label, run by Bill Chambers and Audrey Auld.

With support from Tara Carragher with Richard Coates.

$10 at the door

Doors 4pm.

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