State Fair Records

Matt Hillyer’s band, 1100 Springs, was a fixture on the Dallas music scene for the better part of two decades, earning accolades for their traditional, hardcore honky-tonk. Hillyer has sporadically released solo albums, but it wasn’t until Glorieta that he returns to the superb quality of his former group.

Part of the new album’s success comes with Hillyer’s acceptance of what is his greatest attribute: his way with Western swing and ballads. There’s a time for stretching your wings, but there are times where staying in the nest is just fine.

That’s not to say that everything on Glorieta echoes Hillyer’s past. Take for example “Stolen Kisses,” a great song that sounds like Hank Snow fronting Calexico. Over a Buddy Holly-type romping groove, Hillyer croons, “One wild and reckless summer night.” The song, like many on the album, can be seen as an invitation, the opening line lures a listener into the pleasures of a story well told.

Of course, the playing is pristine, as Hillyer has never been one to rock out a là the Old 97s. His way is a steady course down a traditionalist’s path. The guitars all stay in tune, the vocals are mannered yet affecting, and the beat always follows a familiar path. This is the music Hillyer has done his entire life. There’s a sincerity to his craft often lacking in country circles these days.

Glorieta is the sound of a singer comfortable in his skin. Songs such as “Ordinary Man,” “It’s All About the Ride” and “Diablo Motel,” while quite different from each other, are unified in their approach to classic country. These are good stories told about not so good people with music that’s approachable, lean and well executed.

Cover promo image by Shane Kislack.