Vocally, singer-songwriter Matt Suggs sounds freakishly like Ray Davies, and his intriguingly odd character studies and pretty melodies make the comparison hold up. Richly arranged with lots of piano, acoustic guitars and organ, Amigo Row takes paths not traveled to reassuringly familiar territory.
The opening “Father” has a timeless sound to it as Suggs sings about a son in trouble parting ways and seeking resolution with his father. The actor in “Jonathan Montgomery” is in some kind of mysterious trouble as well.
Suggs likes to plunge us into the middle of some situation we don’t quite understand and give us a tantalizing glimpse of all the emotion involved. “I imagined you so damaged as you dreamt into the mirror,” he sings on “Darling Hannah.” “Breaking apart the tiny pills you took in halves.” There’s the guy who finds out his girlfriend’s been cheating on him in “The Unbelievers Waltz.” “Frontier Towne (O Janie)” is written from the perspective of a boy who pines for a girl he only pretends to know. “Happy belated birthday / To the girl with the tattooed arm / Who discos til dawn every night in the city / Wakes up every morning on the farm,” Suggs sings. Similarly, the guy singing the love song to his “Tehachapi Girl” it turns out has only seen her in a real estate ad: “We shall swim, O lady, in the sunshine / I’ll shake the dust from a wrinkled valentine I bought at the Stuckey’s near the Texas borderline.”
The solo piano number “New Year” is perhaps the easiest of these songs with which to connect. “Give me one more beer and I’m drunker,” he sings. “Give me one more year to be stuck here / Give me one more chance to forget the words to Auld Lang Syne / Honey could you hum a line.”
But Amigo Row, as a whole, is a record infused with character and quirk, consistently unpredictable and surprisingly enjoyable.