Drawn from studio sessions recorded across North America with a variety of collaborators, the haphazard devotion of James Matthew VII’s overlooked 2019 full-length Stoned When I Pray is on full display throughout the title track’s five glorious minutes.
A searching harmonica introduces the hungover hymn, and the touchstones are quickly apparent and transcended—a Stray Gators rhythm paired with easy, Garcia-like vocal delivery and a dash of Sir Douglas swagger brings together ghostly steel, barroom piano, and a bleary chorus of voices and percussion. All the while Matthew’s tender, clarion voice is front and center, leading the faithful like some reluctant, world-weary preacher: “Lay me down in the valley / Hear me howl up at the moon.”
File next to Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn’s recent batch of pitch-perfect cosmic country platters (which Matthew VII has contributed to)—exquisite and ecstatic. | k evans
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