You know an artist is slated for the big time when T-Bone Burnett is their producer so it shocked me that I never heard of Wendy Matthews when I first listened to her second CD, Lily, several years after its 1992 release. Until a few days ago I didn't even know she had released a CD prior to Lily or that several more followed it. I wondered why Burnett, Booker T. Jones, and members of INXS were all playing in a band with a singer I naively thought had no career. As it turns out ignorance is not bliss! I was surprised to learn that Lily went double platinum and contained the big Australian hit single, "The Day You Went Away."
I liked the CD when I first heard it about a decade ago, and I like it even more today, so I must give a tip of the hat to Perplexio of The Review Revue for reminding me to pull it out for another listen. His latest post on the Australian music scene clued me in about Matthews extensive career. While we're handing out kudos, another tip of the hat goes to Bill of Music & More for introducing me to Lily and Matthews in the first place way back when.
Matthews is a native of Montreal who left home at seventeen to busker across America all the way to Los Angeles. She eventually ended up singing backup on Aussie Glenn Shorrock's tour after he left The Little River Band. When the tour was over she made the decision to stay in Australia and the singer quickly became a frequently sought after session vocalist for many of her adopted country's biggest rock stars. In late 1991 she toured with The Neville Brothers after recording her first album. By then she was well on her way to stardom and a career that has made her one of the most beloved singers in the land down under. You can get the full story on her website.
Lily is excellent from beginning to end. It shows Matthews to be a superb interpreter of other people's songs. The album is full of light rock, light R&B, and acoustic folk-pop all blended into diverse yet cohesive pop performances. While the rock and soul may be on the light side the songs and Matthews vocals are not. You can tell by some of the titles that the songwriting is intelligent. Highlights include "Quiet Art," "Homecoming Song By Suzannah Castaway," "Face Of Appalachia," the rocker "Walk Away," and a cover of the old Teddy Pendergrass hit "T.K.O." The album is rounded out by the superb band assembled by Burnett.
It's time America discovered Wendy Matthews. Australia and Europe already have a long time ago.