BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
To some, the name Matthews Southern Comfort might appear to be an anachronism, a blast from the past whose sole major hit — a redo of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” — successfully competed with Crosby, Still, Nash, and Young’s similarly sublime adaptation and found its way to the top of the charts. Finding them revived now, nearly 40 years after their original incarnation, may seem like an attempt to make up for lost time, but those who have followed its namesake’s long and prosperous career certainly know that he’s never reticent to return to his past, whether it’s through his appearances with Fairport Convention, the band he helped found, at their annual Cropredy reunion concerts, or rebooting Plainsong, a group that put out a single album in their original incarnation and boasts multiple efforts ever since. Consequently, this belated remake of his seminal ensemble isn’t as opportunist as some would tend to think.
On the other hand, given the fact that that the band is centered entirely around Matthews’ lofty singing and consists entirely of completely new recruits, it’s easy to believe that this manifestation of Matthews Southern Comfort is simply another attempt by Matthews to once again reinvent himself. The band’s prior return took place in 2010 with the aptly titled album #Kind of New#, which never gained much traction due to a simultaneous repurposing of Plainsong. Apparently the latter kept his attention, but Matthews Southern Comfort didn’t, even though in reality, there’s scarcely any difference between them.
Matthews’ multi-tasking aside, Like a Radio is a solid step forward, as well as a reach back to his roots — all smooth, seductive melodies that sound of a vintage variety. It’s an agreeable mix in every way, one that boasts several exceptional offerings in “Phoenix Rising,” Right as Rain” and “The Thought Police” in particular. One would be hard-pressed to distinguish it from any of Matthews’ solo offerings, but with two notable covers — the traditional chestnut “Darcy Farrow” and James Taylor’s Apple era “Something in the Way She Moves” — it sounds like it’s of a vintage variety. Silken harmonies and acoustic trappings frame it with finesse, a sound that resonates with both ease and appeal.
DOWNLOAD: “Phoenix Rising,” Right as Rain,” “Something in the Way She Moves”