Back in 2020, I reviewed an EP from Matt Stell. “Better Than That” was good: “Modern, chart bothering, country doesn’t get much better than this.” I said. To be fair, he got a gold record for it too.
In many respects “One Of Us” might as well have the same conclusion, because it applies just as much as it did three years ago, but that’s not really how music reviews work, so I am duty bound to explain why these six songs demand your attention in an already crowded country pop field.
The truth is they don’t, these are not songs that “demand” anything. Matt Stell isn’t that kind of artist. What they do, though, is rather unassumingly creep up on you, until you are unable to resist their warmth.
The title track is a perfect example of what I mean. It’s tale of a group of friends contains in its chorus “one of us got a chain if you get struck”. And that is Stell all over. The sort of bloke who can’t do enough for you, one of the most pleasant individuals you could wish to meet, I’d wager.
Ok, I am being light-hearted, but that does extend to his extra-curricular activities – his charitable efforts have supported St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Doctors Without Borders, and the Humane Society, among others – he is a fine example and his a fine singer too.
“Shut The Truck Up” is a clever way of doing the break-up song and in common with everything here it is filled with class, not for nothing is there a team of hit-makers here. That said, they do have to be sung (“….Truck” is a co-write, one of three Stell penned) and played, and these are as good as anything else out there in that regard. “Man Made”, one of the singles they put out before this, is a highlight. Men, it reasons only do things to impress people. That may or not be true, but it certainly explains why I bought a Happy Monday’s album in 1999 despite hating the band…..
Every one of these albums, ever, has had a party anthem. “This One’s Gonna Hurt” is just that – oh and by the way, you won’t forget its chorus. Just the same as every one of these albums has a “knowing your roots” song. “Roots In This Ground” is classy, mind you.
The last one, “Somewhere Over The Radio” is as neat an explanation as any about why a blue collar kid follows his dreams to Nashville. It’s beautiful too: “you know I got no choice,” sings Stell, “but to chase those songs in the clouds”. And there’s a sense that he’s doing that here, and he’s doing it well.
Look, “One Of Us” by its very nature is not cutting edge, but its charm and its beauty is in its familiarity. Matt Stell’s skill is in his universality.