Matt O’Ree Band returns with “Hand In Glove”


By Gary Vienna

originally published: 25/10/2022

The Matt O’Ree Group is back with Hand in a glove, which is slated for release on November 3. In my opinion, this is by far the band’s most ambitious and solid release to date. It’s also best to use the talents of Eryn O’Ree on lead vocals. The way the album shifts from Matt on lead vocals to Eryn gives the album a special quality. This is the band’s first studio album since fraternity in 2016.

The band includes Matt O’Ree (Vocal/Guitar), Eryn O’Ree (Vocal), John Hummel (Drums), Lex Lehman (Bass) and Layonne Holmes (Vocal). Hand in a glove reportedly took a new approach to how the Matt O’Ree Band wrote and recorded past albums. It was a complete collaboration between the band members and it shows. The songwriting, which has improved with each release, is better than ever. The songs are more melodic, though the searing guitars and guitar solos stay in place. The difference is that everything is sharper, everyone seems on the same page…and they all seem to be having fun.

It’s an album that doesn’t fit into a single category. There are musically ambitious songs (Stepping Stone), catchy tunes (Can’t Undo), deep cuts of classic rock (Better As I Go), all-out rockers (Whole Lotta Nothing) and even hints of rock southerner (Wake Up and Live). The best thing about it is that it all looks like one group, an impressive feat. The songs listed above, along with “I’ll Be Your Shotgun”, “Tore Up” and “He Loves Me Anyway”, are my favorite tracks on the disc.

If you’re into guitar rock, “Tore Up” features searing guitars that won’t stop, alongside Matt’s fiery vocals. And Zeppelin-inspired “Whole Lotta Nothing” is the band at its classic rock best. This track was chosen as the first single from the album.

“Stepping Stone” begins slowly with Eryn singing over very light instrumentation. The effect is almost like a cappella, but it has just enough depth to sustain it. About 50 seconds into the song changes. It becomes something like a wonderful deep track from the 70s. Towards the end, Eryn’s voice rings out as the music becomes heavier, more urgent. She sings “Destiny has a mind of his own” – I love that line.

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“So Lonely” first sang Eryn like a jazz singer. A wonderful guitar solo later returns to her sultry vocals. The background music actually changes several times in this terrific song. It’s an ambitious tune that works. Give it a few spins and you’ll be amazed.

The album’s title comes from a line from “I’ll Be Your Shotgun” – an upbeat song about partners in crime. Eryn confidently sings at the start, “Behind every great man is a great woman sitting by his side” and goes on to name legendary duos such as Bonnie & Clyde”.

The immensely catchy, “Can’t Undo,” is a song about finding that special someone who changes your life and you can’t imagine life without. The joyful chorus: “So if it rains for days / I’ll build an ark for two / And if the sky falls / I’ll fix it brand new / ‘Cause there’s nothing in this world / I won’t wouldn’t do for you / Yeah, you and me / Aw, you and me / We can’t undo You’ll most likely have this chorus in your head after you hear it, as I have since its first rotation.

“Wake Up and Live” is a song with a great positive message of life. It’s hard to hear that and not think it may have been inspired in part by covid isolation. “Let go of what’s holding you / So don’t count the days, wake up and live / Know that today won’t come again / Don’t count the days, make them count instead / Don’t worry about what could have been / it does not come back.

The album’s second single is “Better As I Go”, which is basically a song about giving a middle finger to getting old. It starts with drums and a groovy bassline until Eryn steps in with a powerful vocal. “I’m getting old now and I can see the lines / And all these young people around, they’re pushing me away / There was a day I dreamed I’d be something too / Suddenly I feel like I’m missing time / But you should know / You should know / You should know / I’m getting better as I go / Better every day / Yeah”

My favorite track on the album might be a bit of a surprise. While you most likely picture guitar rock with Matt O’Ree in mind, I think some of the band’s best songs were slower songs like “Leave the Light On.” These songs often bring out the best vocals and can bring out their guitar solos more.

That said, the album ends with his masterpiece, “He Loves Me Anyway”. It’s an absolutely beautiful and poignant love song between two who have been together for a long time. It reminds me of the difference between the Beatles’ early mellow love songs and the later ones, which were more powerful due to life experience. It’s a song about true love. Not imagining true love, or wishing to find it, but actually living it day after day, year after year, decade after decade.

The song features Eryn and Matt each taking turns on lead vocals and telling their side of the story.

Eryn begins with “Some days all I see are the lines on my face / And there are times I just count my mistakes / But every time I cast those shadows of doubts / It brings out the sun / And all the imperfections that make me who I am / He knows every one of them / And even though I grow old and my hair turns gray / He still loves me.

Matt goes on to say, “Some days all I see is the struggles I go through / There are times when I think about the choices in this life / She knows how stubborn and proud I can be / She knows that it’s me / All the imperfections that make me who I am / She knows every one of them / Even though I’m getting old and my hair is turning gray / She still loves me.

The band will celebrate the release of the album at the Grunin Center in Toms River on November 3. Tickets are $30 and available for purchase on line.

Hand in a glove Track list

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1) A lot of nothing

2) Walking on the edge of my dreams

3) Unable to undo

4) Springboard

5) Wake up and live

6) Better as you go

7) So alone

8) I will be your shotgun

9) This reality

10) Ripped

11) He still loves me

Gary Wien has covered the arts since 2001 and has published work with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for best music journalist and author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are you listening? Top 100 Albums 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. Additionally, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station penguin’s rocks. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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