CD Review: Matt Rae's "Tele-pathic" Print
Friday, 23 February 2007 06:30

Telepathiccover1 By Joe Sass
In part two of our Artist to Watch series, we are going to take a look (and a listen) at Matt Rae’s most recent effort, “Tele-Pathic.” This is his second CD with his group, the Matt Rae Trio, and is the follow up to their first CD, “Twang.” Both albums have been receiving high praise from industry critics and music publications. Now it’s our turn to pop in the ear buds and see if this Tele-Master has the goods everyone is raving about.

Out of the case, we find that Paul Opalach and Matt Rae produced the CD at Long Hill Studios in the country music hub of Shelton, CT. Such a rare spot to bring out countrified guitar playing and production qualities that would certainly rival the likes of Brent Mason, Albert Lee, James Burton, Roy Buchanan and the super slick producers in Nashville. One spin through the CD you’d probably think you were listing to a down home country picker born and raised in the Grand Ole Opry. The production values on the CD are simply outstanding as well as Matt’s guitar playing.

Matt’s background doesn’t quite fit the “Tele-Master” mold, to the contrary, as Rae was born and raised in the a-tonal area of Norwalk, Connecticut. The city certainly has no musical legacy or a scene for that matter that would nurture and shape a countrified guitar hero. So one has to wonder how could his country chops and sensibilities be so authentic and his sound so pure?

One of the answers to this question lies in Matt’s utter commitment to the style. It’s clear that he’s listened to his inner voice and followed what he was born to play early on. Secondly, Matt has innate musical gifts and has not been lazy about making the most of them. He’s worked on his guitar playing technique and skills tirelessly. The third factor is that he has studied with guitar greats as Arlen Roth (still plays in his band), Bruce Bartlett, Kevin Berry, and Jim Campilongo just to name a few. He’s been an exceptional student and of all of his hard work is clearly paying off with the benefits of having amazing tone, skills, sublime musical sensibilities and songwriting.

Matt calls his style of music a “countrified, surf-a-billy, blue-funk-pop-jazz set of original instrumental numbers as well as a slew of pure-pop-guitar standards” On the album Matt used a 63 Esquire Tele and ’61 Vibrolux amp. So let’s take a run though of “Tele-Pathic”:

“Tele-Pathic” Track List:

Bumper Cars
The Camel
Bee Hive
Big Jim’s Boogie
Rumble Seat
Mr. Honalai
Kentucky Waterfall
Rolling Fog

"Caravan" comes right from the mouth of the big waves and surf guitar of the 60’s. Big bassy thumps washed with reverb and dazzling riffs up and down the neck, and right off the shores of Dick Dale. It’s haunting tones and distant sounds are so real that you’ll feel like you have gone right back in time to the surf era. Matt’s playing is simply awe-inspiring and includes some deep surf riffs that you’ll want to learn right away and put into your repertoire.

Mattst1 "Clawdaddy" makes a nice transition into more traditional Nashvillian country chickin’ pickin’ Albert Lee style. Slick pedal tones and growly bends are everywhere in the song. All I’m waiting for is the sound of Vince Gill to come in and start singing. Matt makes an opening statement in this tune that he’s an authentic, certified, dynamic country picker that can stand up with the best of them. Matt’s playing is incredibly tasteful and fresh.

"Diesel," slowed down a bit from the high-test "Clawdaddy", offers a more subdued and fatter guitar tones and mellower tempo. With a touch of overdrive the song has some nice bite with hints of Robben Ford thrown in for good measure. It’s a more of a rock-a-fied country buffet of country licks, bends, and pedal tones that will satisfy even the pickiest country fan. You can learn a thing about tone in "Diesel."

"Bumper Cars" is just what you would think. Off the rail riffs and rhythms bumping and darting into one another. It lasts about as long as the ride at the state fair. But this amusing track will certainly put a smile on your face as your eardrums get a good bump.

"The Camel" gives you a brief respite from the southern battered, deep-fried, chickin’ pickin of the previous songs. Played in a minor key, The Camel sounds much more akin to a Tom Petty Breakdown instrumental that has more a gentle and softer guitar touch from Rae.

"Bee Hive" gets right back to the stinging guitar playing from Rae. Up-tempo major runs are off at a dizzying pace and make you shake your head as you try to keep up with his nimble, ultra clean, no-mess, playing. The shortest track on the album, "Bee Hive" buzzes with killer playing that would make Chet Atkins smile.

"Big Jim’s Boogie" is a good ole time country romp. Matt also adds in some tasty banjo playing that really adds to the size of Big Jim. The fact is that none of his songs are syrupy or are overdone. Matt is very skilled at keeping all of the songs tasteful and rich. Like all genres you can play right into the clichés of the past and not come off with your own identifiable sound. But not Matt Rae, as he’s able to add a fresh style and sound to music that has very strict rules and traditions.

"Binger" starts of with a Mustang Sally like chord vamp and playful, lazy guitar hook that plays over the progression. Rae adds in some crisp sweeps and bends that brighten up the laid back grey sky song composition.

"Rumble Seat" with its jingly-jangly guitar licks and mix of deep E-bass hits and bends takes the listener on a relaxing drive. Its sparkly clean runs are as bright as the sunshine coming through the windshield. The song like most of Matt’s work is not too flashy or overcooked. He has a definite sense of humility in his playing even though he could certainly show-off his chops at anytime; he seems to hold back in a very seasoned and mature approach to all of his songs on the album.

"Mr. Honalai" delivers tasteful and crisp Hawaiian guitar tones throughout. Matt’s playing is ultra clean and poppy on the solo over the relaxing progression. You’ll feel like you’re on a vacation when you hit play on this track. It’s quite amazing how true his guitar sounds are to the traditional Hawaiian sounds.

"G-Force" picks you up General Lee style with hard-hitting high paced runs, descending and ascending on the neck. Matt makes good use out of some grumpy and growly bends. The song takes a few quick breaths, and then jumps back into a good ole country romp.

"Kentucky Waterfall" offers up a mid-tempo pedal steel themed wash and a touch of thick double stops and sweet pedal tones throughout. The additional pick harmonics and natural harmonics give the song even more depth. Matt makes the deeper bends sound like a horn instead of a guitar. He takes it out with a few nice slide hits that finish it off.

"Rolling Fog" is the last track on the CD. This track once again shows off Matt’s versatility as a player. This song comes from more of a slow modern rock, slow jazz style. The chord tones and the overall melody are soft and airy. It’s a very beautiful composition and certainly offers up the sensitive side of Rae.

From top to bottom Matt Rae demonstrates that he has the guitar playing and songwriting skills of seasoned pro. He could be compared to any of the great players on scene today, whether it is Johnny Hiland, Jonny A, Robben Ford, or Brent Mason, the only difference between them is that he’s simply on the way up. But we’re sure here at Guitar Jam that his name will be on the list of “Masters of the Telecasters.”

CD Rating: 5 Picks.

(Rating scale= 1 don't go near it, 2 a one-hit wonder, 3 buy it on itunes and pick what you like, 4 solid, 5 a winner)