Matt Hill Album Review

Willie Hamilton reviews Matt Hill’s first solo album ‘Masterpiece’.

Matt Hill MasterpieceArtist: Matt Hill
Album: Masterpiece
Genre: Blues Rock

If you haven’t heard of Matt Hill it is unlikely that you have listened to worship albums from ‘!Audacious’ Church in Manchester, where worship leader and guitarist Matt has been heavily involved in recording ten albums. On the other hand, you may be someone who never bothers to read the CD notes.

Now is the time to sit up and take notice, for Matt recently released his first solo project, ‘Masterpiece’. A rather presumptuous title, you might think, for a debut album. Matt explains “I’m not saying this album is my masterpiece, but rather that we are heaven’s masterpiece. Just the way we are.”

I first became aware of Matt back in February, when I heard him interviewed Premier Christian Radio breakfast show. I was immediately impressed by his quiet confidence, his modesty and his grounded attitudes on matters of worship and music generally. He also played the track Safe Surrender, live in the studio. His acoustic playing was tasteful and his singing was like that of a sweet-voiced Neil Young. I was much impressed and decided that I had to hear more.

To say that this album surprised me is somewhat of an understatement. I guess I maybe expected an English worship leader to come up with something U2 derivative. Not a chance! What emerged was an album of blues-rock driven songs with more in common with Joe Bonamassa than the Edge. Difficult to pin down all his influences, but I suspect that there may be 2nd generation blues-rockers the like of John Mayer in there. Hey, there may even be shades of 1970s originals such as Dave Gilmore or Christendom’s Phil Keaggy.

I couldn’t tell you the last time I put on an album and immediately loved the majority of the tracks. This makes it quite difficult to single out individual songs. In terms of the lyrics, I would say that he is obviously a lover of the Psalms and most of the songs have a Psalm-like honesty to them.

The first two tracks, Masterpiece and Million Words set the tone for the album with the stripped down, power trio feel that was Matt’s intention. Both songs also have huge, anthemic choruses well worthy of any worship event or festival.

Breathe into colour brings a slight change of pace and it is easy to imagine Matt writing this on acoustic guitar. The first two lines are “We are planted in the House of God, we are grounded in the House of Love”, which I found wonderfully moving.

I loved Matt’s playing on God of Wonder with its Andy Summers’ style riff overlaid with fluid solo and lead lines of which Mark Knopfler would be proud.

It’s back into major riffage for Guiding Light, which also features a great doubled lead vocal.

Safe Surrender takes the pace back down again. This is another storming track. However, my one criticism is that the scrubbing guitars towards the end of the song detracted a bit for me.

Search me is a fine, moody track, taking its inspiration from Psalm 139.
Still Waters takes us into very mellow acoustic territory with some tasty little licks for flavour.

After the Rain has a driving funk riff, worthy of Prince. Slapping and popping bass in the jam version adds to the funk stew.

Matt HillI love this young man’s whole approach to this project. He is an excellent player, but doesn’t overindulge on the solos. Initially I was concerned that his voice might not be rough-edged enough for the genre of music. However, the more I played the album, the more I liked the combination.

The songs themselves are well-crafted and all reflect and celebrate the glory of our God.
The members of his band also deserve a word of encouragement, as they are solid throughout. In addition, the production is sensitive and always serves the songs.

For a taster, I recommend you go to Matt’s website, or watch the single Million Words on YouTube.

What a solo debut!

Willie Hamilton has been leading worship for many years. An experienced guitarists and singer he has been attending the Church of Scotland since finding faith in his 30’s. He is now finding the time to write more worship songs and has even managed to squeeze in writing an album review for us!