Jim Mathews

Jim Mathews

Away With Words

Metal Blade

Total head-scratcher here: an instrumental album, with “file under new age/jazz” listed under the barcode, on the most enduring metal label around, Metal Blade?!? Hey, if Brian Slagel digs it, it must have some merit…

And for those who prefer polite yet moody coffeehouse soundtracks, it certainly does have some merit. Sole songwriter Jim Mathews only plays guitar, but is flanked by a violinist and an equally astute rhythm section. As with most instrumental groups, the virtuosity can be blinding and numbing, especially when little is being explored aesthetically. While all excellent musicians, Mathews and company, however, prefer to explore dynamics and textures, running the gamut from the jovial and bouncy (the hoe-down of “Tongue Tied”) to the pensive and somber (the weep-fest of “The Language of Silence”); when the quartet, more so, opts for the latter, it can come strikingly close the Blackgirls — a criminally underrated piano-violin-acoustic guitar trio from the late ’80s/early ’90s — minus the vocals.

Metal Blade Records, 2828 Cochran St., Suite 302, Simi Valley, CA 93065-2793; http://www.metalblade.com

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