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Matt Stansberry / The Romance: "Past Heartache, Present Hope & Future Love"

Much Love Records
The new double LP from Matt Stansberry, along with his group The Romance.
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ALBUM REIVEW: Matt Stansberry / Matt Stansberry & The Romance: Past Heartache, Present Hope & Future Love (Much Love Records) 2017

So, with Past Heartache, Present Hope and Future Love, Oklahoma sophisti-pop-rocker Matt Stansberry has laid a total of 16 tracks of pop, rock, soul and Okie love on what is a double LP.

Yes, the first disc, Past Heartache, Present Hope is a good start, and his backing band, the eight-piece Romance, is not credited. But it’s a more intimate affair.

And when I say “intimate” and “affair,” well, you get the sense that “romance” plays a big role in his heartfelt music, which is all about the pulse. And as he repeats at the end of album opener “In The Fire,” – “it’s growing louder.” This is repeated, building to a crescendo. With a release, if you will.

Matt Stansberry is no bespectacled geek. There’s some passion behind the Buddy Holly frames.

Again, disc one is a more stripped down affair. A record to play for that special someone after dark and a few drinks. “Strange Love” is a good example of this approach.

There’s a plucky, nylon-string vibe that brings to mind Jack Johnson or smiley guys of his ilk. I feel this on “Blue Bird (Sing Once More).” It’s almost childlike. So, when he returns to the more soulful fare on gospel-lite tracks like “Shine Your Light,” I can dig it.

But let’s skip to disc two, this with The Romance and titled Future Love. Why? Because there are asses out there waiting to shake to the Nile Rodgers-styled grooves Stansberry and his bandmates (which includes dynamic background vocalist Myra Beasley) are laying down. Can only imagine how good these sound live.

And don’t let me forget to mention his sassy and brassy horn section: sax (Adam Ray); trombone (John Fletcher); and trumpet (Garrison Brown). You just don’t hear horns enough these days, and The Romance makes up for that void in popular music. These guys and gals aren't jazz. And not straight pop. It's a good mix of rock and soul and themes that are decidely down-to-earth. 

Does Matt Stansberry have a wide vocal range? Ehh … What about lyrics? Well, with tracks like “Crazy Boy” and “Gril Crazy” and “Sexy,” well, he’s in sync with the times, as it were. At times it comes off as a Flight of the Conchords parody … (think “Ladies of the World” or “Business Time,” for instance …) and can be a little much. But Matt and the gang join OKC luminaries like Color Me Badd in the “words” department. And believe me, that hip-hop-doo-wop group could put some hooks together, yo!

It's really not until the final Romance track on Future Love, "Top Of The World," (not to be confused with the effervescent Carpenters number from '73) that the jammy side of the group comes out. And it's worth waiting for.

Could this collection have been shorter, a little tighter? Sure. But he's got those musical ideas down on wax. Time to move on and make love, not war.

For more information, go to www.mattstansberry.com.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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