Matthew Check “Without A Throne”

Independent, 2022

Eclectic mini-album with glorious seventies vibe.

The songwriting process manifests itself in so many ways for musicians and Newtown, Pennsylvania based Check has a highly distinctive approach to this creative process. He says he writes his songs when he’s in the depths of despair and that “it’s usually very painful, dark and depressing”. Everyone to their own, but this might suggest his material will be downbeat.

The opening track of this mini 7 track album quickly extinguishes that notion with a lively, energetic and fantastic introduction – ‘The Very Beginning’ – with a stirring piano beat, superb guitar playing, some lovely background vocals and lyrics looking back at a relationship wishing he could start all over again. There’s a definite feel of Jackson Browne and Warren Zevon here – and that’s no bad thing. It’s a wonderful start.

Now sober, the second song – ‘Old Wooden Floor’ – looks at the harsh reality of drinking, but again this is an upbeat song with some classy pedal steel playing. Check’s bluegrass background surfaces on ‘Pretty Mama’ and he stays close to home on ‘The Way That You Are’, which was written by his brother Jonathan and is a lovely tale of unrequited love – again enhanced by some superb ivory tinkling. Jonathan’s a talented sibling as another of his songs is included – ‘The Shape It Appears’ – a country waltz about being able to see an era clearly only after it’s over – amazingly its author was only a teenager when he penned it. The closer, ’Because You Can’, is an older song from fifteen years ago and is a breakup song with a heavy seventies feel and some more atmospheric background vocals from Miss Tees.

This is a really strong album, produced, arranged, mixed and engineered by Thomas Bryan Eaton, who also plays electric and acoustic guitars, pedal steel, dobro, mandolin and vocals. Other musicians include John Pahmer on piano; Eric Frey on electric bass; and Glenn Grossman on percussion.

Its modest running time makes you yearn for more.


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