For a lot of pop music fans, part of what makes country occasionally more inaccessible than other popular genres in western culture is the fact that the music itself is much more structured and straightforward than anything else that can be found in mainstream radio today. To be successful in country music, you’ve got to be disciplined and repetitious. You’ve got to have a deep appreciation for Americana and the school of thought that led to its creation. And most importantly, you’ve got to be able to connect with the roots of what makes Americans in particular feel related, and relatable, to each other as a people and as a social demographic. Not many country artists are good at being country artists and successful popstars, but Matt Westin, a Pennsylvania based rising country singer/songwriter, might just be an exception to the rule.
Matt Westin doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to recreate the music that influenced him as a kid. He doesn’t even particularly have a desire to revisit the past, and his record Legacy speaks to just how forward thinking he is as both an artist and as a man. Westin does care about creating melody, and cradling that melody in articulate, smart narratives that almost anyone can relate to if they’ve gone through life with a full, vulnerable heart beating in their chest. What I found to be particularly dynamic in his approach to recording is that he doesn’t feel the need to litter his music with a lot of unnecessary frills or pomp. When the material is this good, it can speak for itself, and Westin intelligently gets out of the way.
Songs like “Good Time” and “The Devil’s Door” could easily be stand-alone singles and find success without the help of the additional eight tracks on Legacy, but I don’t know that they would have the same full, haunting weight that they do if they were out of context from this setting. The fun thing about every song on Legacy is although they’re each a unique glimpse into the soul of who Matt Westin is as an artist and songwriter, they fit together almost perfectly like puzzle pieces to form one picture; a portrait of Westin’s life and experiences in full color.
I’ve never been the biggest country music fan in the world, but I definitely enjoyed listening to Legacy. So much so, in fact, that I’ve been listening to it ever since discovering it through a colleague just one week ago. When a songwriter of any style or genre is so effective that they’re able to attract listeners who aren’t even particularly keen on the scene that they’re representing, you know you’ve found someone really special. Matt Westin is one of the rare treasures that I get to unearth in this job I’ve got reviewing and analyzing music, and although I never pictured myself writing this about any country artist, I have to say that I am really looking forward to seeing what he does in the future.