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Longer Form Reviews
“Living with Facebook, Garageband, and a clutch of social media and cheap recording tools has made it easier than ever for aspiring musicians to self-produce and release their own material. And while many hail this shift as an unmitigated good, the resultant glut of material and new artists can be downright overwhelming for the curious listener– all of which makes the discovery of a truly original and accomplished artist such as Matthew O’Neill such a precious and welcome find. Whether laying his hat in Big Indian, the Appalachians, the high Arizona desert, or the canyons of Topanga over the years, this singer-songwriter has been methodically writing, releasing and performing his own consistently engaging guitar- driven material, honing a distinctive sound that easily rises above the throngs of his DIY contemporaries. What sets O’Neill’s music apart is in no small part his versatile and singular guitar style, which melds elements as varied as virtuosic finger-picking, Old Time grooves, classic indie rock riffs, and world music rhythms such as Colombian cumbia into an alluring alloy that can evolve seamlessly from painfully fragile passages, to plaintive solo lines, then into driving squalls. Imagine John Fahey, Neil Young, and Thurston Moore vying for time on the same ax. Paired with an affecting and unassuming tenor and a wry lyrical sense that lingers on beauty and loss, the talented Mr. O’Neill’s real achievement has been to combine his various influences into an integral sound wholly his own. Whether backed by an able rhythm section or performing solo, Matthew O’Neill’s music may not be setting the indie-blogosphere ablaze, but that hardly seems to be his concern. Rather he is crafting lasting songs true to his own vision. A real needle in the online musical hay, don’t sleep on a chance to catch O’Neill live or to hear his self-released recordings.”
‘…Be sure to pack a large tent and a wild array of supplies. It promises to be a wild ride. We step out of our time machine near the end of the last Ice Age. The location is North America, and pre-historic plants and beasts are everywhere. The tent is setup now and all supplies are in place. We are as comfortable as anyone could be twelve thousand years ago.
Matthew O’Neill is not tripping, but you wouldn’t know that from listening to his five-piece rock band. Tall and muscled but lean, Mr. O’Neill takes easy command of the venue as his strange brew of roots rock blares out into the crowd.
Ancient peat moss and sabre-toothed tigers inhabit the music. Woolly mammoths rumble by, and the vanished human tribes that hunted them make an appearance. There’s even a song called Mastodon to emphasize the point. In this music, the modern era slips away and the audience is transported to another time and culture. The Missing Link has a faded red Les Paul and will not let you go until he’s through with you.
When the last swamp has drained itself out of the amplifiers into the ether, the audience is left reflective, not jubilant. This is a strong and mysterious album that they played tonight, not party-time by any stretch.
I stumbled out into the street after the show with more questions than answers. Well worth a listen.”
LIVE SHOW AT THE YODELER / WRIGHTWOOD, CA ; FEB 3, 2015