Published Apr 11, 2016Danny Michel isn't too cool to write about love, hope, happiness or peace; he's not too cool to breathe new life into old clichés; and he's definitely not too cool to layer into his songs sweet sax solos or world music influences from his travels — all of which is pretty damn cool.
Matadora is the veteran Waterloo, ON-based singer-songwriter's tenth studio album, and it might be his finest to date. Michel, who tends to fly under the radar in Canada's music scene, has long been one of this country's most thoughtful songwriters. The ten songs here are deeply felt meditations on the artist's fears and fantasies.
"I had a dream / That we all locked arms / And vowed to keep each other from harm," sings Michel on "Click Click," the stunning opener about ending international violence. On the title track, the musician wonders aloud whether it's "too late for a little grace"; elsewhere, Michel observes and immerses himself in life's minutiae, demonstrating his special knack for tackling the big and the small.
Make no mistake: Danny Michel uses his musical powers for good. Nowhere is that clearer than on "Nobody Rules You," a humanist masterpiece that invites all of us to be, say and live however we prefer. Play this one on repeat in public spaces and places of worship around the world; look elsewhere for weary resignation or sermonizing.
A few of the tracks here (namely "Good Old Days," "Matadora," "Paris Las Vegas") connect up sonically with the music he made in Belize with the Garifuna Collective, and he's managed to weave it seamlessly into the texture of this record, which also includes delicate ballads ("Holding Out," "Samantha In The Sky With Diamonds"), uptempo alt-country ("Get Lost, "The Part You Throw Away") and the musician's familiar crescendoing rock ("Rubicon").
Danny Michel manages in this remarkable collection of songs to give voice to the beautiful and the mundane, to the real and the ideal. Matadora is vital and should be required listening for anyone in need of a bit of hope. (Six Shooter)