Matt Hillyer - Glorieta
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Glorieta (State Fair, 2023)

Matt Hillyer

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

Chances are pretty good that you've heard Matt Hillyer sing before. The former frontman for the Texas band Eleven Hundred Springs, which ended its 23-year run in 2021, is now taking the solo route. These 11 songs are all written or co-written by Hillyer, some with the familiar honky-tonk vibe, and others that meld in pop and other influences we may not associate with his former band. Full instrumental backing from seven musicians including Texan maestro Lloyd Maines, give the album a full, distinctly Texas sound.

The opening title track is a bright, bouncy, folksy tune that fondly nods to a place, a retreat of sorts, that Hillyer's mother has owned in New Mexico for years. Immediately the higher registers of Hillyer's vocals faintly evoke another Texas giant, Roy Orbison, whose echoes along with those of Buddy Holly also imbue the up tempo, twangy "Stolen Kisses." Yet, Hillyer hasn't totally stepped away from his danceable Eleven Hundred Springs sound, as heard on Maines' pedal steel driven "Just Passing Through" or the two stepping "You Gotta Keep Moving," featuring Heather Stallings on fiddle.

Yet, Hillyer proves to be no one trick pony, with the pop-infused "Ordinary Man," a sincere ode to his father. Some ethereal, psychedelic elements seep into "Diablo Motel," where Abel Casillas sets a ominous mood with his accordion as Hill yer brings the stomping element while imparting hard-earned wisdom. His pleading "What Kind of Fool" pares back the accompaniment to allow the wonderful nuances of Hillyer's vocal to shine through in a standout performance. That mellow mood changes with the honky tonker "It's All About the Ride" and the fiddle imbued "Holding Fast" with its hints of bluegrass. The closer, "That's How You Know" brings plenty of twang as the uplifting close.

Hillyer has crafted an excellent country record – solid songs, strong musicianship and one of the better voices in the genre. Thankfully he decided to keep going even though Eleven Hundred Springs disbanded. His future as a solo artist looks promising.

CDs by Matt Hillyer

Glorieta, 2023

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