Album Review: River Matthews – Imogen

River Matthews is a name fast making the rounds in music enthusiasts’ circles around the country. It’s all come together for the London-based songwriter, after a long time working to make his dream a reality. In not quite rags-to-riches but definitely humble beginnings, River started his career as a musical therapy teacher, helping people heal through songwriting. Little did he know that this line of work would soon lead him to supporting the likes of Rag ‘n’ Bone Man and Coasts on sold-out tours. That’s before we even get to his own music. Sunshine, the singer-songwriter’s most recent EP saw him cement a place as one of the country’s finest new songwriting talents, garnering support and critical acclaim from BBC Radio 2 alongside features on Billboard, Clash and The Line of Best Fit.

River Matthews - Imogen artwork

All in all, he’s a very likeable guy who’s been doing a lot of good for others and put in the graft required to be where he is. Years of putting his musical ability to good use eventually resulted in being discovered by distinguished songwriter Jamie Scott (Adele, Jessie Ware, Major Lazer). From there, everything fell into place.

“I worked at a school with students with learning difficulties, using music as a kind of therapy to build self esteem and confidence. From working one to one with the students, to encouraging them to form bands; it was great fun, and really powerful when you saw how often they would grow in confidence and self awareness through music.

The energy and care all the staff put into the lives of the students is quite incredible. I can honestly say I owe a huge amount to that place, for so many different reasons”.

The new album, Imogen, sounds like a real moment for an artist discovering exactly who and what he is as a musician. Absolutely not pandering to any trends, you can hear a real love for 60s and 70s songwriting in River’s work. The standout point was always going to be River’s distinctive top-line, which cracks and croaks beautifully in the shoutier tracks. The release ebbs and flows between the head nodding, feet tapping, sun-infused feel good vibe of ‘Sunshine’ to intimate performance in ‘Pretty Things’ to the hair raising ‘Fool For You’. River manages to fuse elements of folk, Americana and soul, effortlessly wrapped with his gorgeous voice and creating a modern classic with a real vintage touch.