Iain Matthews and the Salmon Smokers – Fake Tan

Album Review | Talking Elephant Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson

Of the twenty plus songs considered for this album, the former Fairport Convention singer, together with the four-piece Norwegian band The Salmon Smokers, have narrowed the selection down to just eleven songs, ranging from a handful of familiar songs from Iain’s solo back catalogue, a couple of covers, including a Matthews Southern Comfort classic, a brand new song and one or two familiar to us from his live appearances over the years.  Taking no less than three songs from Matthews’ debut solo album, 1971’s If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes, including Richard Farina’s “Reno Nevada”, together with “Southern Wind” and the title song, we instinctively know that we’re in trustworthy territory from the start.  Okay, Sandy’s voice is absent from “Thro’ My Eyes”, but you kind of hear it anyway, transmitted through the ether.  Revisiting Joni’s “Woodstock” seems to have echoes of the Matthews Southern Comfort hit version, with that distinctive opening riff very much re-established, as opposed to the recent MSC voodoo vocal version, which is also worth checking out.  The band’s musicianship is in evidence throughout each song, which no doubt pleases Matthews as much as it does the audience.  Bob Dylan’s mid-Sixties “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry”, is treated to a blues noir arrangement, with weeping guitar motifs that seem to traverse the city’s underbelly, while the funky “Something Mighty”, puts a sprightly spring into Matthews’ step, with some tasty dobro courtesy of Freddy Holm.  “I Threw My Hat In”, a brand new song,  demonstrates that Matthews still has something to say, as he allows us a peek into life on the road.  With the combined efforts of Freddy Holm, Eivind Kløverød, Finn Tore Tokle and Omar Østli, Iain Matthews is still very much a contender and not quite ready to rest on his laurels.