Songs of Yesterday
Music by Atkins, Takemitsu et al
Matt Withers g
ABC shop or MattWithers.com.au

There’s easy listening and there’s Easy Listening. Australian guitarist Matt Withers’ new recording falls into the former camp. No, wait, the latter… oh, what the hell? Let the chillax fall where it may, this is exquisite playing of exquisite arrangements of popular tunes from around the world that would melt even the hardest of hearts.

Even without hearing the music, one has only to look at the track listing. Chet Atkins’ arrangement of Don McLean’s Vincent. Laurindo Almeida’s arrangement of Blue Moon. John Williams’ arrangement of Stanley Myers’ Cavatina. Toru Takemitsu’s arrangement of Yesterday. Steve Marsh’s arrangement of Ralph McTell’s From Clare to Here. There are also original guitar favourites by Roland Dyens, Jorge Cardoso and Francesco Tárrega. There is even a guitar duo set featuring Morricone’s music from Cinema Paradiso, in which Withers is joined by Guitar Trek buddy Tim Kain.

The trouble with this kind of repertoire is it takes extraordinary skill and taste to pull it off without it sounding sentimental at best, cheesy at worst. Luckily Withers has the skill and the taste to succeed where others fail. Not only does he possess the requisite cantabile approach to the melodic line in terms of phrasing and tone, his ability to articulate supporting lines and harmonies is such that the emotional colours manifest themselves in a more sophisticated manner than you’d imagine, almost Debussian. So relax: you’re in safe hands.


Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine