Critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Mat Kearney is set to release his new album, City of Black & White, on May 19 on Inpop/Aware/Columbia Records. Following the success of his major label debut, Nothing Left To Lose, Kearney has returned with an evolved sound and a world of new experiences. After spending five years traveling the country establishing himself as a new artist, Mat dug his roots into his new hometown of Nashville, TN, allowing the songs on City of Black & White to evolve from various places and sources. He opened up the writing process to friends and to the community of musicians in Nashville, and crafted songs such as “Fire and Rain,” “Here We Go,” and the album's lead single, “Closer To Love.”
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Mat Kearney [City Of Black & White]| Posted May 20, 2009
Following the success of his major label debut, ?Nothing Left To Lose?, Mat Kearney has returned with an evolved sound and a world of new experiences. Three years later, and thanks in large part to VH1?which kept ?Nothing Left to Lose? in rotation for 45 consecutive weeks, an open-hearted album of self-discovery, ?City of Black & White? is a chronicle of the people he met and missed during that journey.
In fact, the first song ?All I Want? begins with the lyrics ?Here we go at it three years later
Will you help me to dream it all up again?. I really enjoyed ?Nothing Left To Lose? and the musical diversity and catchy lyrical style. I would describe Mat?s style as a great mix of Jack Johnson, The Fray, Matthew West and Brandon Heath, which are among my favorite artists. ?All I Want? is one of the catchy standout songs on the album and is a great way to start off the album. ?Fire And Rain? is another nice upbeat song. Hit single ?Closer To Love? is my favorite overall song on the album. Overall, it reminded me of Brandon Heath?s award-winning ?Give Me Your Eyes? musically. The album lacks strong spiritual messages and reminds me more of a Jack Johnson album relative to the number of songs about relationships such as ?Here We Go? and ?New York To California? which are nice songs and also both remind me of ?London? by Brandon Heath.
Unlike Matthew West and Mat?s last album, I was disappointed that this album is a tad mellow overall and lacks any urban style musically or lyrically. The album is a nice listen and includes several memorable songs including ?Annie? and the closing song ?City Of Black & White?.
If you liked ?Wait And See? by Brandon Heath and ?Something To Say? by Matthew West, you?ll like the musical style of this album, but lyrically it is much more like ?The Fray? by The Fray and ?Sleeping Through The Static? by Jack Johnson.
KEARNEY DROPS HIP-HOP FLAVOR IN FAVOR OF IMPECCABLE ACOUSTIC LOVE FARE| Posted August 18, 2009
Mat Kearney. The moniker is nearly synonymous with his signature soft-speak singles like “Bullet” and “Nothing Left to Lose,” but with City of Black & White, Kearney may soon be associated with impeccable love songs. Yes, love songs. While a few remnants of the hip-hop flavor that populated his debut remain, most have been replaced with flawless acoustic stylings peeking out from behind his somber vocal. There is something oddly charming in his careful, yearning tone, evident on “On and On,” where he sings, “If there’s one thing I know to be true/It’s that I’m in love with you/I don’t care if everyone knows what we are going through/All roads lead back to you… Nothing worth anything ever goes down easy.”
The artful album flows easily through every track, each one more cohesive and radiant than the last. Take “New York to California,” a piano-based balled where he croons lines like “Baby, I had one of those dreams again/And I lost you in the wind... For you I would crawl from New York to California.” First single “Closer to Love” wins with its shuffling syncopated beat, and “Runaway Car” sails along with a sprightly air. “All I Have” is even more impressive, showcasing the talent honed through Kearney’s impressive resume thus far.
He just hits home run after home run with this album, likely to find a home with fans of The Fray. Much like Fray front man Isaac Slade’s (who has graced the stage with this talented singer, along with elitists Jason Mraz and John Mayer) urgent vocal and almost mournful arrangements, City of Black & White is painfully honest, moving and Kearney’s best work to date. —Grace S. Cartwright
This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from CCMMagazine.com. Click here to visit CCMMagazine.com today!
Here We Go on a Runaway Car from New York To California| Posted June 04, 2009
Rewind to Christian Radio circa 2004 and you'd hear the Oregon boys, which consisted of Shawn McDonald, Paul Wright, and Mat Kearney, all of which hit the radio at the same time, all had strong debuts, and all happened to hail from Oregon. Kearney was probably the most original of the bunch, providing a great mix of acoustic hip-hop, mixed with pop and rock. He soon got noticed and he released an album which was noticeably poppier, but contained some of his old track. Some of the new stuff wasn't that great, but Grey's Anatomy loved it, and he took off. Some three years later, five if you're counting his last fully-original album, and Mat is back to show us what he's got. The result is Coldplay + The Fray.
All I Have
Closer To Love
Here We go
The album is a solid listen, especially on the first half of the album, combining the usual singer-songwriter pop, mixed with more atmospheric elements, giving the album a complete sound. And while it's different stylistically from his debut, it's still a great sound. The only problem is it starts faltering towards the back-half. "New York to California" is pretty cheesy with lyrics like, "I'd build a bridge through the fire. For you I'd crawl from New York to California." Wow, that's pretty standard 80s-type cheese there. In fact, the album has a 80s pop feel to it, which I find kind of strange.
Overall, "City of Black & White" is pretty black and white in terms of originality, but Mat does a great job with the music and lyrics. The first half is excellent, and some of the songs on the back-half fall off the wagon. If anything, this album will increase Kearney's profile in the music world, which is evident when I see signs for Mat Kearney playing with Keane at Radio City Music Hall. So I'd say Kearney's done pretty well for himself, and deservedly so.
City of Black and White... and maybe some Grey too| Posted May 25, 2009
While Mat Kearney was an underrated artist when his first CD, Bullet, came out, his singles from then on forward got significant air play (though Kearney still wasn’t high on the totem pole). During that period, and even after Kearney released his patch job of Bullet’s songs and new tunes labeled Nothing Left to Lose, Kearney made a big impact with the title track from both discs. Now after a three years and with a handful of his songs promoting various television ops, Kearney has resurfaced with his third album City of Black and White.
Due to Kearney’s progressive relevance in the mainstream media, it apparently became essential to simplify both his lyrics and his musical direction some. I’ll start with the musical aspect first because it will make the most of an impact of Mat Kearny fans. The City of Black and White’s music is mellower that previous projects, but it doesn’t have much to do with the tempo as much as the chemistry of any given song. The element which made Kearney’s music so distinct and attractive was the rap and sometimes hip hop flavor which he would mix in every other song flawlessly without any simplistic compromise to the beats or the artistry of the music.
His latest effort contains almost nothing of the rap component, and even though Kearney is still a remarkable musician and still gives fans a healthy dose of cutting edge adult contemporary/pop, City of Black and White is less without it. Eliminating the urban factor from the album causes the songs to mesh a little too much especially towards the end of the CD leaving a little verity to be desired.
Still there are a few stand-out tracks and none rank higher than the first single “Closer to Love.” Every facet of the song is finely tuned including the classy piano intro and the catchy upbeat pop chorus. Kearney’s vocals are strong as always, and provide defining roles in songs like “Annie” and the emotion filled “Fire and Rain.” Kearney’s soft handed approach to pop sound makes an inseparable connection to adult contemporary which never really shifts from one style to the other but stays together. The contemporary pop tune “All I have” is very artistic and the guitar driven “Never Be Ready” is similarly good but it lacks a little diversity. Almost every song on the album is at least good, but I was excepting a something more on the title track which ends up being an uneventful ballad with a fine instrumental ending.
Mat Kearney’s occasionally spiritually vague lyrics often left fans reading between the lines, but he made is clear who he was singing for (look back to “Undeniable” or “Girl America”). I was fearful that with more mainstream exposure Kearney’s lyrics would shirt to a more secular position, but even with a slightly more laid back song writing City of Black and White should drop enough hints to make even unbelievers ponder eternal things. However while, Bullet and Nothing Left to Lose peered into aspects considering life closer to the street, City of Black and White is mainly discuss’ relationships and broken people.
Weaved into his songs of heartbreak are a couple clear biblical references and a few tracks which devote themselves to conversation which could go either way. During a case of disaster where Kearney adds an insightful tidbit ‘I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees’ “Closer to Love” suggests turning to God in rough situations (‘Prayin' Lord come through/We're gonna get there soon/Oh it's your light/Oh it's your way/Pull me out of the dark/Just to show me the way.’). Similarly “Annie” includes trouble concerning a girl who has taken the wrong road in life, but the singer eventually realizes that salvation is in the Lord; ‘Tell me there's something we can say/Help me to find a light/Something that's worth living/Theres one love in the morning/Add three days in the grave/Fall back in the evening/Now our lives will change.’ But when “All I have” remarks ‘Every step/Every moment/I’m looking for/All I have/Is yours’ is it an absolute mention to Christ? And how close is the connection between “Fire and Rain’s” message of a prodigal son and the Bible?
Discretion is advised, but unlike some edgy lyrics in Kearney’s previous two works, there are no serious disclaimers in his strong songwriting (Other than “New York to California” implying that the couple is living together with no marital context). However on the melodic side of things while the charm is still there, the aura of diverse and unique music that Mat Kearney used to own is not so prominent. Sure City of Black and White a strong album and should call to more listeners, but the nagging feeling left with older fans will be ‘I wish he would have explored those streets more.'
4/5| Posted August 24, 2011
I normally don't listen to single artists but once I first heard a song by Mat Kearney I really dug it. I dug his voice and his combination of singing and rapping. I never had the chance to pick up one of his albums but that changed once I went to an Owl City concert where he was an opening act. I picked up City of Black & White right then and there. (And also because that was the only one available.)
In comparision to his earlier work, City of Black & White is different in style. It still retains a fun vibe but that vibe is a bit more chill and mellow. Also, it's a bit of a letdown that there is no rapping whatsoever on this album. My guess is that Mat wanted to show off his signature voice more and wanted to appeal to a broader audience. I like that he is trying something different but I would have preferred at least one track that goes back to his roots.
City of Black & White is still a great album to listen too but fans of Mat's earlier stuff might be a little put off by the lack of rapping.
Gotta Love This!!!| Posted May 14, 2010
This is really an incredible CD. Although he has dropped his 'acoustic rapping' his voice still retains power and gentleness which made "Nothing Left to Lose" so special. On this disc he explores some of the themes of the "Nothing Left to Lose" album a little bit deeper. "Annie" could be a continuation of "Can't Break Her Fall" or "Girl America". "Closer To Love" details the power of prayer and hope. "Fire and Rain" is a re-telling of the biblical prodigan son. In "All I Have" Mat Kearney dedicates his music and talent to God. "New York to California" is a very sweet love song. "City of Black and White" is a song of hope that community will thrive. In "On and On" praying is the key to happiness. This is a very good CD, and I love how Mat Kearney has grown and matured in his faith and his music. Buy it, I don't think you'll be disappointed!
Different, but not bad| Posted June 03, 2009
I really like Mat Kearney's "Nothing Left to Lose" & was expecting a similar album...
However, "City of Black & White" is quite a different style (tunes are not as catchy/rhythmic). It's not bad, just different. The tracks are all sort of similar, but the standouts for me are: "Closer to Love", "Runaway Car", and "All I Have". I also really liked the music video for "Closer to Love".
Overall, I'd recommend you give the album a listen.
little mellow| Posted May 20, 2009
Kearney's follow up album to "Nothing Left to Lose" is a tad bit mellow for my taste. The cd has some great lyrics, melodies, and acoustic sounds. Unfortunatlly it all tends to blend together.
After his huge success with "Nothing Left to Lose" I had high anticipation for a follow up. City of Black and White isn't a bad follow up, and I like several tracks including his radio hit "closer to love." He is maturing as an artist.
This cd would be better if he had some more upbeat songs. One of the reason I enjoy his earlier works is because he mixes it up.
Overall it is a good follow up as far as lyrics. Just wanted a little more to spice it up a bit. All the songs tend to blend together, and for me makes it a tad bit blah.
Nothing new or exciting| Posted May 19, 2009
It's Tuesday, so new Christian album to review. This week is Mat Kearney's "City of Black & White". It is a descent album, but really nothing to get too excited about. Guess if you like a tone down Matthew West, you will like this one-I have to be in a vegging mood to listen to him. Again, not bad, just nothing exciting that I haven't heard before. The tone is so muted, that the lyrics get lost with the music and his voice puts me to sleep-which could be good if that is what you are looking for. Again, not bad but not anything to write home about. Rather listen to Matthew West. Not sure I will be adding this to my collection. There just is no song that stands out to me. Sorry man, but I need more emotion and deeper lyrics.
If you like Keene, you will like him. Just not my cup of tea.
effortless| Posted May 15, 2009
Muy buen trabajo de Mat K,casi sin esfuerzo y de manera natural nos regala su musica . Aprecio mucho al musico que se puede escuchar de manera clara la letra de la composicion musical sin "esconderse" en la musica o los efectos especiales de esta.
Si tendria que decir un pequenia critica es que a lo largo del disco todos los temas en general tienen el mismo estilo o parecen similar,pero esto no quiere decir que la obra en su totalidad es excelente .