Matthew Haynie hasn’t much of a local footprint, but he has been appearing with various outfits in North County (and as afar as Northern Arizona) for a while, playing original music best described as rock-oriented Americana with folk and country elements, mixing both acoustic and electric instruments. He also has put together a debut solo CD, You Were Where I Wanted to Be, which includes ten originals. Haynie sings and plays the guitar on all the tunes, and support comes from Willis Farnsworth on bass and pedal steel, and Steve Moak on drums and backing vocals; there are some additional contributions, but sonically, the album is at points just a step above home-made. The stripped down, often vacant sound doesn’t hurt, though. It keeps the attention on Haynie, whose talents as a vocalist and lyricist will make or break a few of the tracks.
“Was It Ever Enough” opens, a breakup rocker that follows a solid drum beat, moving into crowded crescendos with chopping electric guitars and evolving into Haynie’s overwrought semi-shouts at the end. It isn’t a bad start, but the next tune, “Since Dawn,” falters while using a slowed-down version of the same basic hook as the opener, lots of nihilistic lyrics, and dragging verses that speed up during choruses about self-medication and getting high.
Things bounce back as the disc highlight is definitely “Prey on Me.” Haynie asks a demanding lover, “How could I ask to be myself/ It’s too damn hard being somebody else,” and it clicks with a nifty guitar hook, bridge, and snappy arrangement–which is helped by chorus harmonies and keyboards that beef up the sound. The pace slows for “Guilty Hearts,” which is fronted mostly by Haynie and acoustic guitar; he is giving the post mortem on a failed relationship, the song doesn’t try to do too much and succeeds because of it.
A rocker, “One More Night,” again propelled by chopping guitar riffs, has some good moments, though a bit weighed down by heavy lyrics on the verses: “Regret ripping through my core, as your key turns in the door/ Left the words I should have said on the stairs of your apartment.” The choruses are fine, though, and the tune is one of the better offerings here. Haynie is the quiet folkster on “My Bed,” another introspective ballad, with nice pedal steel echoes in the empty spaces, about “That day you left me in my bed alone.” Another soft-tempo tune closes the program, “Spare Change,” with acoustic guitars in the forefront. It is simple and effective; Haynie’s performance on these folkie-styled songs is probably a demonstrated strength on this album, eclipsing his efforts in rocker boots.
Fans of Americana music who want to hear an artist new to the scene, with some interesting things to say, will enjoy Matthew Haynie’s solid debut.