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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Matt Burke Band - Pretty Close To Very Good

The Matt Burke Band - Pretty Close To Very Good
2010, Matt Burke Music

It’s been a while since a band was so distinctly Californian that it should be part of their name, but The Matt Burke Band is just such a coalition.  The duo of Matt Burke and Brue Baker’s sound, dubbed “Soulcoustic Beach Rock”, weaves southern rock, reggae and blues together in a blend that seemingly could happen nowhere other than on the beaches of the left coast.  Burke and Baker in fact met while attending college in Florida.  The Chicago-based duo has developed a reputation for dynamic live shows in their hometown, and earlier this year released their debut album, Pretty Close To Very Good.

Pretty Close To Very Good opens with “The Weekend War”, a reggae-flavored good time song for Friday night and beyond with great energy.  Burke has an affable voice, and this is a fun arrangement that’s a perfect start.  “One Step At A Time” is a catchy bit of acoustic rock n roll with serious pop pretensions.  Burke displays a solid falsetto voice and an easy transition back and forth.  This funky and fun tune blends the concept of carpe diem with the need to go slowly.  “Cover To Cover” is an amusing tune that strings together lyrics and song titles from popular covers spanning the rock era.  Kitschy and fun, it’s something of an inside joke for anyone who’s ever taken the stage and faced calls for covers when trying to perform original material.

“Superstar” is a tongue-in-cheek take on a performer whose ego gets the better of him performed in the first person that gets turned around to the perspective of those in his wake.  It’s an interesting and ironic take on the pitfalls of a culture obsessed with celebrity.  Burke is enigmatic here, personality plus that comes through even in the recorded medium of CD/MP3.  “School” is a song of unrequited love for an unattainable girl.  Burke expands on memories from high school days in this catchy and fun paean to how sometimes high school memories hit us from out of the blue.  The theme is universal, and Burke’s songwriting and delivery are vibrant.  “White Collar Blues” is a lamentation of the big dreams of a working musician just starting out and the nine-to-five drudgery he faces years later as he continues to try and ‘make it’.  Whether musicians or not, this tune may well serve as an anthem for 20-somethings everywhere (and none too few 30- and 40-somethings). 

“Moonshine Porcelain” is perhaps the catchiest tune on the album, and vaguely reminiscent of the Tragically Hip.  Burke and Brue work some slide guitar into the mix of some pretty serious guitar work beneath the surface.  “Fading Faces” laments the friendships of our school days that are lost to time in a Jason Mraz-style lyrical explosion that you won’t be able to shake.  “Another Sad Song” reminds us that while music has the ability to open doors, it can also help trap us in thoughts we’d be better off escaping.  The song starts out with just Burke and his guitar, waiting by the phone for a call from his ex that is never going to come.  Burke captures an angst-filled energy here that fits perfectly.  Burke and Brue close with “The Ride”, an energetic turn that fits that’s an apt wind down to an experience that’s even better than its billing.

The Matt Burke Band lives up to its reputation.  Just from the album alone it’s clear that Matt Burke and Brue Baker would be welcome on almost any stage in any town.  Rumor has it that their live show is even more impressive than the studio recordings.  Pretty Close To Very Good turns out to be a modest representation of collection of dynamic and entertaining songs.  You’ll want to put this one on your “need” lists, and don’t be surprised if The Matt Burke Band ends up on a Best of 2010 lists.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5) 

 Learn more about The Matt Burke Band at or Close To Very Good is available from as both a CD and Download.   Digital copies are also available from iTunes.

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