Matt Andersen’s The Big Bottle of Joy

By Brian Rock

Canadian Blues powerhouse Matt Andersen spreads the joy on his twelfth studio album, The Big Bottle of Joy. The name of the album is also the name of his band; and much of the exuberance of the album is the result of the synergy between Andersen and his talented team of musicians. Specifically, Chris Kirby’s Hammond organ and the vocal harmonies of Reeny, Haliey and Micah Smith give the album a Memphis soul-soaked, gospel revival feel.

The good vibes start on the album opener, “Let It Ride.” The aforementioned organ and backing vocals come to the fore early and often as Andersen sings, “I’m sick of solving other people’s problems. You want answers? I ain’t got ‘em.” At first, the song appears to be a statement of indifference, but Andersen continues, “I hear you going on about yourself when you don’t care about anybody else.” Suddenly it becomes apparent that Andersen is urging others to keep their noses out of other people’s problems and work on healing their own. Asking us to stop casting stones and just “let it ride,” he’s calling on us to overlook petty differences and come together. Kim Dunn’s barrelhouse piano adds a rollicking Blues rhythm to the powerful, gospel-tinged melody; and of course, Andersen’s guitar testifies in its own righteous style.

Andersen reiterates the message on “What’s on My Mind.” Another gospel/blues fusion that reminds us, “We’ve got to learn to live together.” “How Far Will You Go,” keeps the gospel spirit rolling. Funky syncopation and call and response vocals help Andersen deliver his message of perseverance. Asking, “Are you still gonna want it when it leaves you broken hearted?” he forces you to examine how committed you truly are to reaching your goal. Reminding us that, “you only lose when you walk away;” he encourages us to muddle through the hard times and focus on the reward. These three songs constitute the heart of the album. They are a perfect melding of Memphis soul, blues and gospel with an uplifting message of togetherness. 

Andersen offers encouragement on the Chicago blues of “So Low, Solo.” He gives a soulful interpretation of Richie Haven’s “Hands of Time.” He combines piedmont blues guitar and ragtime piano on the aptly titled, “Rolling Down the Road.” 

But Matt Andersen’s booming baritone really shines on the album’s ballads. “Golden,” is a testament of the power of love. Singing, “you arrived and the whole world turned golden;” he shows how love can transform lives. “Aurora,” compares a lover’s beauty to the aurora borealis with muted Hammond organ chords wavering like the Northern Lights themselves. “Miss Missing You,” is an unexpected love song to a musician’s life on the road. “Keep Holding On,” is a tender vow of commitment. “Only an Island,” reintroduces the album’s earlier gospel tones at a slower tempo. Closing with the intimate, “Shoes,” Andersen celebrates the simple joy of a couple’s night at home in the midst of a busy life. For a big man with a booming voice, Andersen is surprisingly tender and vulnerable in expressing his love through song. Whether it be love for a woman, love for his music, or love for all of humanity, Andersen celebrates joy in all its forms of expression.  |  fb  |  buy

Brian Rock

Brian Rock

Brian was raised gypsy style, moving every other year until well after college. As friendships proved to be temporary, Brian found a constant companion in music, wearing the grooves off Beatles and Dylan albums before moving on to Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yokam. Living so often in flux, he has come to value music and lyrics of lasting quality. Not moved by trends or fashion, he is drawn to timeless lyrics and soulful rhythms. Although now settled down, Brian still expresses his gypsy spirit through his writing. He has co-written songs with musician friends he’s met along the way, including several contributions to the 2012 ICMA Album of the Year, Family Album. Brian also writes children’s books and poems, including the Children’s Book Council featured title, The Deductive Detective.
Brian Rock

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