Album Review: Matty T. Wall Turns In a Six-String Gem with 'Sidewinder'

For anyone who might question Matty T. Wall’s love for the guitar, just watch the video for the title track to his new album, Sidewinder,  where rapid-fire camera cuts show him ripping through the song’s  sparkling power-pop riffs on a bevy of new and vintage six-string  beauties. 

As for how he handles himself on the instrument? Look no further than the first cut on Sidewinder,  an instrumental called “Slideride,” on which Wall, over a hopped-up  barroom boogie beat, whips out searing, quicksilver bottleneck licks  that demonstrate an infectious exuberance for, and an extraordinary  command of, his instrument.

From there, the prodigiously talented Australian singer, songwriter and  guitarist takes the listener on a 12-song musical journey that runs  through an impressive array of sounds and styles, from blues to rock to  country to pop.

There’s also a smattering of covers that display Wall’s  varied influences—Trombone Shorty’s “Something Beautiful,” Sam Cooke’s  “A Change Is Gonna Come,” Freddie King’s “Going Down,” Chris Thomas  King’s “Mississippi Kkkrossroads”—all of it shot through with Wall’s  spirited vocals and lyrical, lively guitar playing. 

To be sure, Wall is an artist steeped in blues and roots  music, but his appeal lies in his not being beholden to any traditions  or mores. The instrumental “Sophia’s Strut,” for one, marries a  sprightly blues lick to an odd-metered percussive stomp, over which Wall  spins towering curlicues of notes. And standout cut “Shake It” peppers a  deep-in-the-pocket groove with heavily distorted hard-rock riffing and  clean, funky comping, before ultimately exploding into a double-time  shred fest.  

But for all the guitar pyrotechnics (and to be sure, there are plenty to go around on Sidewinder)  Wall’s true strength is as a songwriter and also a synthesist. He  crafts hooky, heavily rhythmic tunes that, at least stylistically, have  one foot planted in the past—but always with an eye focused firmly on  the future.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.