It's been a year and a half since Matrimony signed with Columbia Records, but good things come to those who wait. The Charlotte folk-rock outfit's debut album is comprised of 11 finely crafted works that play solidly from start to finish. For Matrimony, the beauty of a major label comes through in the album's production work — crisp instrumentation that is layered without becoming muddied. You don't lose the mandolin behind the drums or guitar, and the piano can be heard amidst it all, too, just as clearly as the vocals.
Montibello Memories shows elements of Fleetwood Mac influences from the start. Singer/keyboardist Ashlee Hardee Brown's tone meshes perfectly with that of her husband, Jimmy Brown. One strength in their songwriting is knowing when to lay back to let the other shine and when to join forces for soulful harmonies.
"Last Love," the lone carry-over from the band's early days as a duo, gets a robust treatment here, thickening up the romantic side of the song without diminishing the lyrical purity. "Lucky Man," one of Montibello's newer recordings, sounds like a Fleetwood Mac-meets-Talking Heads mash-up, with its acoustic strums and group chorus. "Giant" provides a bigger-than-its-words chorus — "There's a giant leading me to God knows where" — with its original yet familiar ring.
Just as the instrumentation and vocals have stability in the sonic output, there's also a steadiness in the tone of Montibello Memories as a whole. The band finds a good balance between those tender moments of love and loss and the upbeat, feel-good sing-alongs that make you forget your worries and let go.
Matrimony has gone through lineup changes and some slightly experimental moments, but Montibello Memories is a solid major-label, full-length debut that spotlights not only where the band has been, but where it's going.
The band returns to Charlotte on May 30 at the Neighborhood Theatre.
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