[26 April 2007]
Haunt’s Matthew Hebert is a firm believer in the power of songs, a conviction that garnered his former band, Ware River Club, increased attention and accolades over the course of three records. Now Haunt is poised to bring his gruff, melodic voice and sturdily constructed tunes to a wider audience thanks in part to a crack band that features former members of the Scud Mountain Boys and other western Massachusetts heroes. Indebted to the distinctive vocals and respected canons of Bob Mould, Grant Lee Buffalo, and Tom Waits, Hebert writes songs like an altruistic city planner, building each track with care and consideration to ensure listeners will want to return. “Run Run Run” opens the record at an easy gait, a handful of banjo plucks embellishing a gently rolling guitar pattern. The first words on the album are “Somebody believe me when I say”, a fitting summation of the ethos here: earnest, guileless, country-flavored rock, of the type that has hopefully been shorn by now of hokey pretenders and is now left in the more capable hands of folks like Hebert. The chiming shuffle of “Love Song”, for example, could easily lapse into cloying sweetness if it weren’t performed with gentle, unassuming grace. Similarly, the blustery, rocking “Poisoner” with provocations like “I’m a poisoner / And I say things like / Jesus forgives you” works as a condemnation of disingenuousness in large part because there’s no mistaking Hebert’s penchant for telling it like it is, however it is.