Mat Gibson. Forest Fire.

Five years ago English songwriter Mat Gibson cut a very impressive album in Philadelphia with his band The Broken Hearts. Packed full with fine guitar slinging Gibson came across as a UK equivalent of Ryan Adams at times. Since then he seemed to disappear from view until this re-emergence as a solo artist on Clubhouse Records. In the interim it appears that he spent several years in Quebec and something of the Canadian landscape (or mindscape) appears to have returned with him as Forest Fire is a set of stark, minimalist songs which sound as if they were conjured up on freezing plains with the writer isolated, miles from anywhere. The sound of the North Country (think of The Jayhawks here) also appears to have had some influence. This is most evident on Yonder Burning Tree where Gibson’s harmonica and guitar could have come straight from Hollywood Town Hall. Gibson plays all of the instruments sticking in the main to acoustic guitar with sparse accompaniment from his harp and occasional keyboards. There are some other embellishments, the slide guitar on the opening song Lord Only Knows, played by Jonathan Berry lends a plaintive air to what is an excellent song. Forest Fire drips like an icicle, a pale fire indeed as Gibson sings of seeing forest fires sending plumes of smoke into the air as he flew back from Quebec. On this elegiac song with heartrending vocals and a perfect marriage of guitar and strings Gibson’s lyrics cast a perfect light on the stress and strain and regret left behind when a relationship ends. The aeroplane metaphor is revisited in Icebergs where Gibson sings of having nowhere to land, buffeted by the forces of nature conspiring against him. An airborne version of Titanic, Gibson sings of “the band playing silently on” as the ‘plane circles endlessly.
After the glacial outpourings of the previous songs the final cut, Where Demons Go, adds some muscle with some electric guitar thrashing. Almost an exorcism after the confessional nature of what came before it Gibson asks “won’t you give me one more chance to make things right with us.” Whatever the answer there’s no doubt that that this album marks the return of a major talent to our shores and it’s to be hoped that we don’t have to wait five years for the follow-up.
Lord Only Knows


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