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Release Date:
April 2, 2011

Reviewed by:
Harvey Cline

he highly anticipated follow up to his successful Family Funktion has this Long Island guitarist sharing a dozen “life stories,” and making some great music at the same time. Matt Marshak’s April 1st release of Urban Folktales is his first concept album with tunes complied from “a certain place.” The liner notes say that these are “tunes to reflect to, dance to, or relax to” as well as “enjoy this soundtrack for the evening hours.”

It begins with a nice reflective tribute to Teddy Pendergrass. The mood is laid back and the feeling is definitely an evening chill. Matt’s guitar never comes out heavy here and has that certain effect that was so evident in Pendergrass’ music. Says Marshak, “There was a lot of these little atmospheric or mood kind of guitar parts that I would hear on a lot of those 1970’s R&B and even some of the jazz records. A lot of them you would hear a wah-wah guitar kind of clicking in the background kind of creating a dreamy feel.”  The follow-up tune is co-written by saxophonist Marcus Anderson as he adds the vocals from his vocoder on “Next To You.” Although it continues at the same pace as the opener, the vocals add a nice touch that makes this track one to remember. Marshak took the inspiration for this one from listening to a lot of R&B artists over the years.
“Tell Me How You Feel” is one that was written by the whole band and has a nice feel to it. The added vocals only serve as a backdrop to Matt’s guitar. I think you’ll be hearing more of this one over the summer. The muted trumpet of Barry Danielian is a nice touch on “Silent Knowing.” The two play well together, and give a late night feel to the song. He stretches out a little bit more on “For So Long” and complements some of his earlier work from the last album. The continuous three-note riff here shows off some of Matt’s infectious guitar. One of my favorites is “Harlem River Drive.” It moves along at a nice pace while keeping the “chill” mood of driving along the river. Says Marshak, “I heard this melody in my head, and it sounded like someone was singing the words 'Harlem River Drive.' I didn’t have New York totally in mind, but the melody kind of sounded like it was singing those words.”

The southern music scene was the inspiration for “Cackalacky Cool.” It moves around nicely and is syncopated by some nice keys from Benjie Porecki. Adds Matt, “Just soaking in this Carolina jazz vibe that exists down there - which is a unique blend of R&B, and soul, and straight ahead jazz and other things.” One of the funkier tunes here is one called “Glen Bernie.” The guys get going with a great backbeat that is accompanied well by Matt’s guitar. All the guys get into it, and make it a lot of fun. The final cut honors his daughter and is aptly named “Dancin' With My Daughter, Madison’s Song.” Says Marshak, “This is a song dedicated to my daughter Madison... It has a very nice southern R&B, jazz groove going on. She kept walking into the studio and smiling, and trying to touch the keyboard.” Mario Cruz has some good sax work here, as well as Porecki’s keys again. It’s a great one to finish with.

Urban Folktales is a good one to slide into the player and just chill for a while. The late-night feel is present throughout and leaves you with a good feeling. I think you’re going to like this one a lot, and I look forward to hearing it on the road real soon.