Artist:  Mat Kearney
Title:  City of Black & White
Label:  Aware/Columbia

Kearney drops hip-hop flavor in favor of impeccable, acoustic love fare …

Mat Kearney. The moniker is nearly synonymous with his signature soft-speak singles like “Bullet” and “Nothing Left to Lose,” but with City of Black & White, Kearney may soon be associated with impeccable love songs. Yes, love songs.

While a few remnants of the hip-hop flavor that populated his debut remain, most have been replaced with flawless acoustic stylings peeking out from behind his somber vocal. There is something oddly charming in his careful, yearning tone, evident on “On and On,” where he sings, “If there’s one thing I know to be true/It’s that I’m in love with you/I don’t care if everyone knows what we are going through/All roads lead back to you … Nothing worth anything ever goes down easy.”

The artful album flows easily through every track, each one more cohesive and radiant than the last. Take “New York to California,” a piano-based ballad where he croons lines like “Baby, I had one of those dreams again/And I lost you in the wind ... For you I would crawl from New York to California.” First single “Closer to Love” wins with its shuffling syncopated beat, and “Runaway Car” sails along with a sprightly air. “All I Have” is even more impressive, showcasing the talent honed through Kearney’s impressive resume thus far.

He just hits home run after home run with this album, likely to find a home with fans of The Fray. Much like Fray front man Isaac Slade’s (who has graced the stage with this talented singer, along with elitists Jason Mraz and John Mayer) urgent vocal and almost mournful arrangements, City of Black & White is painfully honest, moving and Kearney’s best work to date.


© 2009  All rights reserved.  Used with permission. 

**This review first published on June 30, 2009

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