The Matt O'Ree Band is back with Hand In Glove, set for release on November 3rd. In my opinion, it is by far the band’s most musically ambitious and solid release to date. It is also the best to utilize the talents of Eryn O’Ree on lead vocals. The way the album switches back and forth from Matt on lead vocals to Eryn gives the album a special quality. This is the band's first studio album since Brotherhood in 2016.
The band includes Matt O’Ree (Vocals/Guitar), Eryn O’Ree (Vocals), John Hummel (Drums), Lex Lehman (Bass), Layonne Holmes (Vocals), and Matt Wade (Keyboards). Hand In Glove was reported to take a new approach to the way the Matt O’Ree Band have written and recorded past albums. This was a full collaboration between band members and it shows. The songwriting, which has improved with each release, is better than ever. Songs are more melodic, even as scorching guitars and guitar solos remain in place. The difference is that everything is more crisp, everyone seems on the same page… and they all seem to be having fun.
This is an album that doesn’t fit into a single category. There are musically ambitious songs (Stepping Stone), catchy tunes (Can’t Undo), classic rock deep cuts (Better As I Go), all out rockers (Whole Lotta Nothing), and even hints of southern rock (Wake Up and Live). The best thing about it is that it all sounds like one band, an impressive feat. The songs listed above, along with "I'll Be Your Shotgun," "Tore Up," and "He Loves Me Anyway," are my favorite tracks on the record.
If you love guitar rock, “Tore Up” features blistering guitars that don’t stop, alongside Matt’s fiery vocals. And the Zeppelin-inspired, “Whole Lotta Nothing,” is the band at their classic rock best. This track was chosen as the album’s first single.
“Stepping Stone” starts off slowly with Eryn singing over very light instrumentation. The effect is almost like a cappella, but it has just enough background to support it. About 50 seconds in the song changes. It becomes something like a wonderful deep track from the 70s. Toward the end, Eryn’s vocals are belting out as the music gets heavier, more urgent. She sings, “Destiny has a mind of its own” - I love that line.
“So Lonely” has Eryn crooning like a jazz singer at first. A wonderful guitar solo later on seques back to her sultry vocals. The musical background actually changes several time in this terrific song. It’s an ambitious tune that works. Give a couple spins and you'll marvel at it.
The album title comes from a line in “I’ll Be Your Shotgun” - an upbeat tune about partners in crime. Eryn sings with confidence at the start, "Behind every great man is a great woman sitting by his side" and goes on to name drop such legendary duos as Bonnie & Clyde".
The immensely catchy, “Can’t Undo,” is a song about finding that special person who changes your life and you can’t imagine life without. The joyful chorus: “So, if it rains for days / I’ll build an ark for two / And if the sky falls down / I’ll fix it all brand new / ‘Cause there’s nothing in this world / I wouldn’t do for you / Yeah, you and I / Aw, you and I / We can’t undo.” You will most likely have that chorus in your head after hearing it, as I have since it’s first spin.
“Wake Up and Live” is a song with a great, positive message of life. It’s hard to hear this and not think it might have been inspired in part by the isolation of covid. “Let go of what’s holding you back / So, don’t count the days, wake up and live / Know today isn’t coming back / Don’t count the days, make them count instead / Don’t worry about what could have been / It’s not coming back.”
The album’s second single is “Better As I Go,” which is basically a song about giving a middle finger to getting older. It starts off with drums and a grooving bass line until Eryn steps in with powerful vocals. “I’m getting older now and I can see the lines / And all those young ones around, they brush me aside / There was a day I dreamt that I’d be something too / Suddenly it feels like I’m just running out of time / But you oughta know / You oughta know / You oughta know / I’m better as I go / Better everyday / Yeah”
My favorite track on the album might be a bit of a surprise. While most likely picture guitar rock when thinking of Matt O’Ree, I think some of the band’s best songs were slower songs like “Leave the Light On”. Those songs often bring out the best vocals and are able to have their guitar solos stand out more.
With that said, the album closes out with its masterpiece, “He Loves Me Anyway”. This is an absolutely beautiful and poignant love song between two who have been together for a long time. It reminds me of the difference between the fluffy early love songs from The Beatles and the latter ones, which were more powerful due to life experience. This is a song about true love. Not imaging true love, or wishing to find it, but about actually living it day after day, year after year, decade after decade.
The song features Eryn and Matt each taking turns at lead vocals and telling their side of the story.
Eryn begins with “Some days all I see are the lines upon my face / And there are times when all I do is count my mistakes / But each time I cast these shadows of doubts / He makes the sun come out / And all the imperfections that make me who I am / He knows each and every one of them / And even as I grow older and my hair turns to gray / He loves me anyway.”
Matt follows with, “Some days all I see are the struggles that I fight / There are times I ponder the choices in this life / She knows how headstrong and prideful I can be / She knows that it’s me / All the imperfections that make me who I am / She knows each and every one of them / Even as I grow older and my hair turns to gray / She loves me anyway.”
The band will celebrate the album release at the Grunin Center in Toms River on November 3rd. Tickets are $30 and available for purchase online.
Hand in Glove Track List
1) Whole Lotta Nothin
2) Walking on the Edge of My Dreams
3) Can't Undo
4) Stepping Stone
5) Wake Up and Live
6) Better As I Go
7) So Lonely
8) I'll Be Your Shotgun
9) This Reality
10) Tore Up
11) He Loves Me Anyway