Matt the Electrician
Long Way Home
Reviewed by Melanie Haupt, Fri., Nov. 5, 2004
Matt the ElectricianLong Way Home Those of us who've only ever seen Matt the Electrician live would expect his recorded material to be Tom Waits-influenced affairs, but Long Way Home is more Grant Lee Phillips than Waits. The rough edges of Sever's gritty voice have been sanded down in the production (not that they needed to be); its muted tones complement the music's mostly mellow vibe nicely. Sever, who abandoned his day job as an electrician to follow his musical muse, is supported by accomplished local players, including Jud Newcomb and Liz Pappademas on his sweetly spunky fourth album. Not deviating from his lean, spare storytelling, Sever turns in 10 nostalgic tales (some of them tall, to be sure), starring a streaking ugly-duckling-turned-swan ("Valedictorian"), lovers who provide just the right cure for each other ("Half Magic"), and slackers who always mean to get around to reading the canon ("I'm Sorry Hemingway"). The best moments on Long Way Home are the ones in which Sever plumbs the darker side of relationships, familial or otherwise. "Hammer on the Ladder" is a father/son song whose intimacy is almost too private to play: "Hold my hand walking down to the ocean. Pick me up and spin me around or the waves will knock me down. Oh Dad, you carry me," Sever sings to his damaged father, who needs to be held up as often as his son. It's deeply affecting, and, one hopes, a daring new direction for this maturing singer-songwriter.