Never trusting anything recommended to me by Facebook, I have found the exception that proves the rule! To be honest, the recommendation sounds nothing like the other singer-songwriters I have been following via social media. The only common factor is that Matt Alber is openly out as gay. Actually, there is another similarity: he is also very easy on the eye.
Steely blue eyes coruscate from a mien constantly illuminated by the warmest of slightly asymmetric smiles; formed by a full bottom-lip, a set of teeth (that thankfully have not been bleached blindingly white) and a ginger 'tache, from whence tongues of flame mingle with the silver highlights in his short-trimmed full beard. This latter accentuates the strong dimple-chin that is echoed in a jolly Father Christmas nose. A surprisingly unwrinkled broad forehead is topped by sandy hair with a kiss-curl flick to the left. In short, Matt has the handsome features of a Swede, Dane or German; perhaps hinting at the Frankish roots of his surname.
[Image description: Matt Alber dressed only in short socks, trunk-style briefs & long-sleeved vest (undershirt); © Meat SF]
Well, I clicked on the image icon and discovered that I had 'liked' Matt Alber before I had even been directed to his page. Feeling it a tad rude to just 'unlike' without at least giving his page the once-over, I read a little and listened to some of his music. Hooked instantly! His songs and sounds (sic - note the plural is deliberate) bring to mind: Paul Simon; John Denver; Michael Card; Antony & the Johnsons; even the showmanship of Harry Connick Jnr.
I have not tracked down an official bio of Matt. He seems to have been born in Kentucky but spent time in Missouri or vice versa. He has lived in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and currently resides near Seattle on Vashon Island. I say resides: as the chap appears to be constantly on tour or participating in musical events, Matt seems to be away more than he is at home. He grew up singing in school choirs and learning to skip (jump-rope) with the coolest lasses at his school. He was raised an evangelical Christian but has moved on to learn more about his own spiritual search for meaning. References to the landscapes around him as much as his immediate environment slip effortlessly into his lyrics. His deep empathy for folk and joie de vivre permeate both melody and poetry. Spirituality will out.
Matt's big break came with either an eight-year or eight-record singing contract as part of Chanticleer. The man has the voice of an angel - often an overused statement - but listen to this piece from Handel's Messiah, "But Who May Abide" (2008) and dare to disagree! I have only ever heard this work performed by contralto voices never by an alto; so Matt's clear-pure-water strains sent me Heaven-bound. My flesh horripilated for five minutes...
The can't-possibly-be thirty-eight year old also has the sirenic vox of a fallen angel - enticing, lulling, pulling one into his embrace... Oh, sorry: went off into my own rêverie there!
How I managed to listen to and watch "End of the World" (2009) without swooning at the end I shall never know, but my heart was melted. However, before readers purchase one-way tickets to Seattle to start stalking the poor guy, I have variously read and seen that he has a beau. Although, a throw-away comment on Matt's f/b profile does state, "if you're single like me" (May 2013); so one might want to try one's chances or maybe he's trying his!
Matt has the body of a cub and has a good sense of humour. Do not watch this video if bare flesh offends thee. Ink fans will spot the odd tattoo too.
So why, when this blog covers matters European in nature, is Matt Alber being featured. Of course, his earlier career centred on works created by Europeans; however, it transpires that when in Chanticleer he did regular tours of Europe. Now he makes annual visits to the UK as himself and next will be here for a few gigs (London, Birmingham & Bristol) in June (2013). For more details go to mattalber.com or check out the updates on his f/b fan page.
I could post link after link to great tunes: his own; covers (his tribute to Whitney Houston "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" is worth searching for); and traditional. But that would take away the joy of the reader/listener from exploring on their own. Nonetheless, I shall end with a live recording (2013) with The Cello String Quartet in which they give a stunning performance of Alber's "Velvet Goldmine"(2012). From baroque, modern classical, oratorio, to country, folk, ballads and pop: there is bound to be something by this superb songsmith that takes your fancy. ;)