This guy is going to get over, and he deserves to. The debut of Matt Duke is startling in its maturity and its musicality. The production of Stewart Lerman and Steuart Smith (with Jim Klein) really tricked this guy's music out, effectively and appropriately.
The artist said on the web that transposing the arrangements from an acoustic guitar treatment to a full blown production was "an amazing process, but it definitely took some thought"--which is artistic understatement, since it's often the essential puzzle through which the point is made or missed, especially in a debut.
(The brilliance of the artist aside for just a minute, it's not just the producers, or even the outstanding musicians that made this happen the way that it is happening. This CD is from the Drexel brain trust known as Mad Dragon Records; check this new music business model out. When, for instance, did you last see a 'project manager' listed in a CD's credits? Small point, you might think, but I doubt that sincerely. I would wager that what you have here is micro-management in the best sense of the word.)
For a very folk pop record, Winter Child has its share of moments that are either tense melodically or momentarily cacophonous in arrangement. Although the latter is not something I found particularly appealing, the former is, and the combination speaks to an adventurous spirit and boldness of the artist and his producers. On the other hand, there are singles, several of them; my favorite is "Tidal Waves." But the album opener, "Oysters," is very radio friendly as well.
And radio seems to be on board: WXPN's Helen Leicht (the excellent Philly tastemaker) has been a champion, as well as Matt Marrone and Kate Bradley of XM satellite station The Loft (Channel 50, that's where my XM dial is usually set).
The artist, as well as his music, is immensely likeable; check him out on myspace and his website. You'll find interviews that will make you a believer, and songs that will make you a fan. This is a guy you can get behind, and they're lining up to do so. • Frank Goodman