The Oregonian pop star studied literature and played soccer at California State University where his friend and producer invited him to Nashville to record and he never went back. Now, according to Rolling Stone, Mat Kearney is going back to his roots on Young Love. After he began recording, Nothing Left to Lose was released in 2006, followed by City of Black and White in 2009. The non-existent reggae-style songs on City of Black and White are back now for Kearney’s 2011 effort. His newest release, JUST KIDS came out in February of this year.
Young Love (Deluxe Edition) (2011): 15 tracks, 58 minutes
Young Love is about just that. Nearly all of the tracks describe some sort of relationship, most of them about girls, but “Rochester” features the story of Mat’s dad. Mat also highlights some spiritual struggles as well on “Chasing the Light.”
Having listened to this a few times in a row, a lot of the songs seem to blend into the same style. However, the bass is excellent in “Hey Mama,” “Ships in the Night” utilizes ambient and powerful keys, and “Rochester,” relies heavily on fingerpicking. “Sooner or Later” has been hailed as “barely distinguishable from OneRepublic” by Rolling Stone, but they praise him for bringing back the reggae that was missing on his 2009 effort. Mat’s style is somewhat poppy with a lot of hip-hop during the verses. Both styles have influenced him greatly.
Although his style is fresh, some of the lyrics can leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. A suggestive reference is made in “Hey Mama,” “. . . Those baby browns and golden thighs . . .” and in “Down,” he lights up a cigarette. For his lover in “She Got the Honey” he would “beg, steal, and borrow if tomorrow she’d stay.” There’s a lot of bad things that happen in “Rochester,” but Mat doesn’t advocate any of it. “It was only one night and our first time” seems suggestive in “Seventeen,” while in “Head or Your Heart” Mat implies that you have to choose between the two, which is not always the case. Mat keeps the profanity to a minimum with only h-words, but they appear in “Chasing the Light,” “Learning to Love Again,” “Rochester,” and “Seventeen.”
That seems like a lot, but there’s a lot of good stuff that Kearney slips into this record. “Hey Mama,” “Count on Me,” and “Seventeen” display unconditional love, but as a whole this 15-track ensemble deals heavily with family issues and resolution in pretty much every track. “Chasing the Light” encourages us to do just that, no matter what’s going on. “Down” tells us “we all need forgiveness.” The end of “Seventeen” describes the nervous/excited experience of having a child. “What She Wants” warns us that material possessions can’t make us happy and “Two Hearts” is simply a beautiful love song.
While there’s good and bad on this album, Mat really shows the struggle of family in these times, but he contrasts that with beautiful songs of commitment and renewal with his unique style. I would definitely recommend it. 7.5/10.