Eclectic mix with A-team backing from Nashville-based drummer, lyricist and vocalist North.
‘Bullies into the Backyard‘ is the second solo album from Nashville-based Matt North, following his 2021 solo debut ‘Above Ground Fools’. However North is no stranger to recording, having worked as a drummer since his teens with artists including Maria McKee, Peter Case and Blondie Chaplin ( Rolling Stones, Beach Boys).
For this release North features his core band of top-notch Nashville musicians – Stuart Mathis (Lucinda Williams, The Wallflowers) on guitars, Chris Donohue (Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris) on bass, and Michael Webb (Chris Stapleton, John Fogerty) on keyboards, with guest appearances from Jonny Polonski and Jessie DeNatale. The album was mixed by Jim Scott (Tom Petty, Wilco, Los Lobos)and mastered by Pete Lyman (Tom Waits, Chris Stapleton, Barry Gibb).
As befits a drummer’s album, the opening track – the standout track on the release – ‘The Last Angry Man’ is a drum and percussion-led rocker, high energy, the arrangement fitting perfectly the story of the aforesaid angry man. North’s vocals here have elements of the delivery of David Byrne and the stylings of the late Tony Joe White, with the Hammond style keys and brass section placing us in Muscle Shoals territory.
Listening through the album the listener is struck by its eclectic nature–the closest to that Muscle Shoals sound is to be found on the bluesy ‘Firing Squad’, while ‘Burial Grounds’ features a riff-driven style reminiscent of The Cars.
‘Stay on the Outside’ opens with a riff with a nod to George Benson’s ‘On Broadway‘, with a big vocal from North, and a powerful guitar solo instrumental, while on ‘Trophy Case’ a driving rhythm accompanies a tale of love and betrayal, as North sings “Sleeps all day/she bathes in milk/hunts her prey at night in a robe of silk”.
Elsewhere the album has a more gentle feel, with thoughtful and well-crafted lyrics. On closing track ‘Plan B’ North sings “You can’t see wind in a photograph/you can’t feel the heat on TV/you won’t smell rain on the radio/you won’t see a ghost in 3-D”, and the memorable refrain “If God has a plan what’s plan B”.
On ‘Holding it Together’ we sense an autobiographical take on both the wider issues we’ve all experienced over the last two years and personal challenges, as North recounts “I kill them all with kindness/somehow they come back from the dead/so I keep killing them with kindness/it’s better for my head”.
Fine lyrics and powerful arrangements from North and his band.