Just You Be Sweet, the third album by Los Angeles-based folk/pop singer-songwriter Matt Van Winkle, presents an invitingly warm sonic environment. Work began on the album in 2014, when Van Winkle found himself writing songs and playing his own shows on the side while holding down rhythm guitar duties in the bands Tall Tales and the Silver Lining and Charlie Clark/Broken Arrow.
The album’s frequent use of hand drums and percussion rather than kit drums speaks to the tenderness at the heart of this group of songs. Flute, violin, cello, trumpet, organ, banjo, mandolin, and a choir layer breezily over Van Winkle’s acoustic guitar and vocals, which crack pleasingly in the higher register.
There’s an aliveness to the shifting styles from song to song — the wistful question mark of “Movie Star Homes and Crime Scenes”; the hippified barefoot dance of “Man of Letters”; the programmed drums and tendriled electric guitar and organ lines of the bleak story song “Florida”; the eiderdown-soft baroque pop of “Don’t Worry, Heather”; and the country-inflected clap-along of “Shields and Spears.”
“The thing that binds them together is in the title — ‘Just You Be Sweet’. It’s good advice for the world, myself included. Eric (McCann, producer) picked up right away that I was seeking something a little rare. The songs have multiple points of entry; they glance at questions and truths that are universal as well as personal. Yes, it took six years. It takes a bit of time, and restraint, to get someplace quiet and kind… you can’t just click a switch and drop into it.”
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