Indigenous – “Featuring Mato Nanji”

“Nanji delivers an absolute gem of an album that’s sure to please fans old and new”

by Tango Sho’Nuff

Albums like this don’t come along very often these days.  For the past 15 years Mato Nanji and Indigenous have steadily built a very large and extremely diverse fan base and I for one can’t imagine any fan not absolutely loving this record.  Throughout the band’s career, which includes 5 studio albums, 2 EP’s, a live album and an all-acoustic disc, Nanji has consistently worked on honing his craft, not just as a guitar player, but as a vocalist and a songwriter as well.  The band’s last studio album (2008’s “Broken Lands”) and it’s all-acoustic follow up (2010’s “Acoustic Sessions”) saw Mato in a more mellow mood, focusing more on well crafted songs and melodies and less on guitar pyrotechnics.  However, “Featuring Mato Nanji” puts Nanji’s guitar up front and center on a collection of songs that instantly stick in your head and cover the entire spectrum of styles and sounds that fans have come to expect from the band along with some new ones as well.

Right out of the gate, we’re treated to a match made in heaven as Jonny Lang lends his voice and guitar to the album’s opener “Free Yourself, Free Your Mind”.  Lang and Nanji trade vocals and solos over a deep funky groove and the two couldn’t complement each other more.  Nanji’s new rhythm section (flanked by Mato’s cousin Horse on percussion) make their presence known immediately and continue to do so throughout the album’s 13 tracks.  Next up is “Everywhere I Go” which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on 2006’s stellar “Chasing the Sun”.  Tasty lead lines, strong melodies and a great sing-a-long chorus are followed by more extended fretwork giving fans a familiar yet fresh sound, but surprises are just around the corner.

Next up is the downright shocking one-two-punch of “Jealousy” and “Someone Like You”.  Never before has Mato attempted such a hard rocking/high octane sound but the results here are spectacular.  Driving, up tempo and filled with snaking bass fills, rhythmic syncopations and hot-shit lead breaks, “Jealousy” delivers the goods across the board while never seeming overly repetitive and redundant.  “Someone Like You” has ‘single’ written all over it yet sounds nothing like anything the band has cut in the past.  The vocals are hooky and infectious with an almost Billy Gibbons like quality while the music balances a monster riff drenched in a thick and creamy fuzz with a pounding, war-drum-like beat.  Radio should be all over this one.

As soon as your brain catches up to the audio onslaught of the previous 2 tracks, Nanji switches gears and delivers one of his most soulful and haunting tracks in “I Was Wrong To Leave You”.  Sweet, Uni-Vibe drenched chords intertwine with subtle organ fills as Nanji’s vocals shine bright over top.  Dripping with soul, Mato’s voice is soothing yet powerful and his lead work throughout the track’s 6 minutes and 37 seconds is outstanding.  You can literally feel the emotions being wrenched from his Strat.  Next up is “No Matter What it Takes”, another brisk rocker in the vein of their earlier material.  It’s also worth noting that even on the more familiar sounding tracks, Mato’s vocals have improved so much over the years that while still instantly recognizable, they at times sound like a completely different singer then the Mato from say 98’s “Things We Do”.

Next up is “Storm”, the album’s sole instrumental track.  Nowhere on the album will you find a better example of just how impressive this band is on their individual instruments.  Centered around a standard blues rock riff, the guys do everything in their power to see how far they can stretch the groove without coming across as self-indulgent (the bass and percussion solos being exceptionally badass).  Next we come to “Find My Way” which is one of the best songs Nanji has ever penned.  Tribal yet melodic and brimming with soul, the song is a testament to Nanji’s ability of weaving his influences into something totally his own, taking the listener on a journey from beginning to end.

“All Those Lies” is a standard Texas shuffle that allows Nanji to stretch his blues muscles while adding perfectly placed vocal harmonies in between tasteful lead fills and licks.  “The Way I Feel” mixes a Junior Kimbrough style riff with Hendrix-ish lead phrasing while “Wake Up” recalls the softer side of Indigenous balancing an almost gospel-like feel with a 2 minute outro solo filled with soulful bends and vocal-like phrases – 2 hallmarks of Mato’s style.

Rounding out the disc are 2 less-rock, more-blues tracks: “By My Side” and “When Tomorrow Comes”.  These final 2 tracks serve as a reminder of what made Mato one of the leading guitar-stylists of his generation.    While many of his contemporaries attempt to cram as many licks as they can in a single 12 bar solo, Mato’s style focuses more on what needs to be there as opposed to what can be.  Never one to self-indulge a song with flash, Nanji’s signature vibrato and powerful bends are always placed right where they need to be.  His guitar tones on “Featuring Mato Nanji” are some of the best he’s ever laid to tape.  Thick and rich fuzz tones supplemented with Vibe and Leslie effects abound throughout and his lead tones are fat and juicy, never harsh or thin.

Overall, “Featuring Mato Nanji” is an absolute win-win release.  Die hards and casual fans alike will be pleased with most of the material while listeners who have pined for more in your face guitar will be delighted by the extended solos and more pronounced rock edge.  If you’re an Indigenous fan, this disc is an absolute must-have.  If you’re just getting around to checking them out, “Featuring Mato Nanji” serves as the perfect starting point.  Blues Rock fans rejoice!  This is one album that most definantly gives plenty bang for your buck.  Visit www.indigenousrocks.com for 2012 tour dates and I strongly suggest catching the band live and witnessing these songs in person.  You won’t regret it.

9/10

TRACK LISTING:

1 – Free Yourself, Free Your Mind

2 – Everywhere I Go

3 – Jealousy

4 – Someone Like You

5 – I Was Wrong To Leave You

6 – No Matter What It Takes

7 – Storm

8 – Find My Way

9 – All Those Lies

10- The Way I Feel

11- Wake Up

12- By My Side

13- When Tomorrow Comes

 

 

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