Matthew Davidson, Step Up (Magnet Music)

Matthew Davidson, Step Up, album cover

Matthew Davidson is a hell of guitar player. The scrubbed, grinning Shreveport 14-year-old, Ferris Buhler-looker demonstrates on this impeccably produced demo an understanding of tone and pacing, a sense of when to hold back and then to set a song ablaze. Producer and bassist Joe Osborn (of the famed L.A. Wrecking Crew; that’s him on the 5th Deminsions’ “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” among countless hits) frames the phenom in pop and blues contexts on Step Up to show the versatility of his ward. By far, the best tune is the last eponymous track, the only song penned by the rising star. Davidson turns the engine over with some stuttering, rhythmic licks (I kept thinking this was going to be Falco’s “Der Kommisar” which would have been an ambitious choice for a cover) but soon lays out a carefully-wrought landscape of bluesy, tight melodies, rushing in the tide and glowing off like a sunset the rare inspiring guitar instrumental. This boy can play. Hopefully, people down the line will let him do just that.

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The cover of Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle” that opens the EP sounds like the sort of thing most adolescent guitar players play. It’s a good, faithful reading but does anyone need another version of it? The dated pop tune “Gonna Be MyGirl” and the uncomfortable-coming-from-this-voice come-hither blues “Lie To Me” are both marred by female background vocals possibly pulled from some B-52s outtakes. It’s a sensible trope, I guess, to show the flexibility of one’s talent to see what will stick, but there are and forever will be copious teenage pop singers. There will never be a shortage of blues dudes crooning boilerplate blues tunes. None of the other songs on the record really let Davidson rip, which is where this kid’s special talent lies.

Check out Matthew Davidson and Joe Osborn’s version of “You Are My Sunshine” on YouTube recorded at the Municipal Auditorium in Shreveport.