Reviewed by: Mae Hunt
For many, 2021 will be spent making up for lost time in an overwhelmingly unproductive 2020. For Matt Cox, however, 2021 will be spent celebrating his recently released album, Bandits, and maybe even performing his new songs at outdoor concerts! Cox, a seasoned musician from Omaha, NE, made use of his quarantine by writing and recording this remarkable country-folk album.
If there’s one thing that strikes me most about this album, it’s the instrumentals. There are moments of delicate fingerpicking contrasted with moments of frenzied strumming, but ultimately it’s amazing that Cox recorded the entire album at home. Each song shows off his versatile voice – deep and gruff in some songs (Falling Behind) and light and twangy in others (Riverside). Moments of quiet highlight the soul and depth of his voice; for example, in the introductions of Right on Time and You’ve Got Every Right (To Be Wrong), Matt sings with only a quiet hum of guitar in the background.
Complimenting Cox’s husky voice are the instrumentals – perhaps what stands out the most are his harmonica and guitar. He shows off his harmonica skills in most songs, but they really come blazing in Right on Time and Riverside. If you want to get a good listen to what he can do on the strings, I recommend jumping to Polyurethane (2:42). And the final song, Rainwood, is six minutes of entirely instrumentals. Time stopped when listening to this song as my mind followed the intricacies of each instrument coalescing to create a rainforest of music.
In addition to the instrumentals, the album contains timeless themes of loneliness, love, and overcoming life’s challenges. Cox includes many staples of traditional country music while keeping it relevant and referencing feelings of isolation and quarantine. Falling Behind is an ominous song that seems to be constantly building, striving to reach an impossible peak. Singing about overcoming life’s constant battles, Cox insists: “We must journey onward” followed by the repeated phrase, “We’re falling far behind.” He concludes the song with: “We’re all God’s children, sometimes it’s hard to tell.” I can’t quite determine whether that’s a generic statement or a targeted thought directed at the year 2020, but either way it’s relatable!
In It’s All the Same, Cox croons about the monotony of daily life, but relishes the freedom and peace his partner has brought him. He reminisces, “I used to ramble ’round, stay out on the town,” but follows it up with, “I’d rather be quarantined with the woman of my dreams than spend another cold night on the road alone.” It’s nostalgic, but sweet as Cox seems to have found peace in a routine life.
This one is definitely worth hearing! Listen to or buy here.