Johnny Cash claimed a musician cannot write real country music unless they have lived and worked in the heart of the countryside. Far from America’s deep south, but not so far in natural splendour, Mata Macdonald was raised in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. As for his music, it is just as staggeringly organic as the countryside that inspired it.
Mata Macdonald said himself that his music upholds “the local music scene within our islands….Support your local music!” Styling his sound from Scotland, Mata makes ‘Hebricana’ music (a mixture between Americana – American country blues music – and Scottish and celtic folk tradition). Mata is like a reincarnation of Johnny Cash who, rather than dressing in black, wears a lighter shade of country; his lyrics focus delightfully on his Scottish roots and love songs.
What is so appealing is the easygoing, intimate and tender nature of Mata’s music. Indeed, he only played to close family and friends until sharing his sound publicly in 2010. Months later his debut EP ‘Hebricana’ reached number six on Amazon’s charts for ‘best new country daily releases.’ Anyone who enjoys folk music should take a listen to the EP. It is a sequence of exquisite secrets and stories told across five tracks, where vocals fit over guitar like glove to hand, not dissimilarly to Ben Howard and Newton Faulkner.
The EP’s most heart rendering track, ‘Break Your Fall’, is nothing short of beautiful and showcases Mata’s from-the-heart song writing at its best. Magic: “You are a dreamer who sleeps beneath the stars,” he sings above the gentle guitar taps. Stepping up the energy ‘Lila’ has a rocky sway, coloured by a shining harmonica and raw vocal. Another gem, ‘The Periphery’, is a folky ballard that grows from a guitar to full orchestral strings like an ear of wheat blossoming into a golden field.
For anyone who enjoys the more traditional shade of country, ‘For Days Gone By’ and ‘Ruby’s Daughter’ return to celtic roots with their folkey banjo strumming, storyteller style and harmonica – attached to Mata’s neck and played as he strums like a pro multi-tasker. On a similar tip, ‘I Can See Your Eyes’ is as husky as it is delicate, its highlight being the blend of guitar massaging the piano as it trickles out its chords. The sounds of Nashville and Tennessee rise to a head in the Scottish take on a country anthem ‘Blacklands’, and a man strumming a guitar has never seemed so loyal to his roots and so picturesque.