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Askew Review 15

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NEW AMSTERDAMS
- Para Toda Vida (Vagrant) The New Amsterdams is a one-man show. Matthew Pryor sings, plays harmonica, and guitar. And he does it well. Para Toda Vida is a collection of short and somber but tuneful ditties. Each of the tracks on this disc clocks in around three minutes or just under. The first breathy harmonica notes announce "My Old Man Had a Pistol" and I have jarring visions of a genetic cross between Bob Dylan and Neil Young. (Oooh wouldn't that be one haggard but talented son of a bitch?). Yet Pryor sounds more novice than Neil and less gravelly than Bob. The convincing guitar strumming is saturated with emotion. God, that harmonica is good, almost lifted from Billy Joel's "Piano Man". "Picture in the Paper" is light hearted and romantic where Pryor pleads, "I just want a minute of your time." It is bare bones but effective guitar and I am reminded of yet another singer-songwriter band, Dashboard Confessional. The New Amsterdams' effort is less whiney than Dashboard and thus I would put my money on Pryor in any celebrity boxing matches between the two. "Son of a Prophet" is slower, with methodical plucking and more melancholy. Pryor eeks out refrains gently like waves lapping at a dock or rain pelting a tin roof. The introspective guy or gal may find them depressing, wistful, or encouraging depending on the dose of valium or caffeine consumed that day. The lilting lonely melodies reminisce of being the only guy without a date in a sleepy coffee bar with dim lights. I am listening to this at midnight while making Steak-Umms for the week and my eyes welled up a couple of time now (and, no, I did not put any onions on my sandwiches). Some strums are warm and ringing but overall I sense a prevailing sadness, a message of, "I'm alone and so are you." Not to say you can't glean any inspiration form listening to it, though. "Four More Years" is my favorite. It seems derived from "Sugar Mountain" or from a footnote in the discography of Simon & Garfunkel. More upbeat and happier than the other tunes, I drift off to thoughts of yesteryear ensconced in crisp and clean banjo bliss. Each of the ten heartfelt and emotional songs on Para Toda Vida is at once folky and contemporary. The tempo oscillates just enough to keep you interested. The moods shift but the chords ring out a sort of truth. Strumming scales soar by like a summer day in your youth, escaping like a bum on a boxcar, retreating over a railroad bridge. Suddenly I feel like drinking whiskey from a jug and flipping on reruns of The Dukes of Hazard. - Tony Gerardi

 

 

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