One Track Mind: Matthew Davidson, “Heartbreaker” (2013)

You might, with so many deep blues connections, expect 15-year-old Louisiana guitar prodigy Matthew Davidson’s new single to sound rootsy and raw. Instead, he draws in sounds and textures from a stirringly broad musical spectrum. “Heartbreaker” isn’t a Led Zeppelin-like reworking of a dusty old blues side; it’s a new melding of things both enduring and freshly conceived.

Davidson begins with an anthem’s bravado, before settling into a ruminative riff – sounding something like Toad the Wet Sprocket sitting in with Ben Folds. He then slowly builds back toward a chorus that swipes a line from Pat Benatar. Those mix-and-match influences give the song a timeless pop-rock feel. Then, in an interesting head fake, Davidson rips off a flinty, deeply emotional guitar solo, recalling Stevie Ray Vaughan’s early-1980s collaborations with David Bowie.

It seems clear that, when Davidson wasn’t appearing on stage at the B.B. King Blues Club, the Pinetop Perkins Homecoming Festival and at the old Louisiana Hayride, he was listening to pop and rock sounds – both modern and from well before his time.

This intriguing new talent has drawn the interest of bassist Joe Osborn, who’s produced Davidson’s debut disc. Osborn, of course, was a member of the legendary sessions group known as the Wrecking Crew, which leapt over similar musical boundaries in the 1960s and ’70s – playing with everyone from Simon and Garfunkel and the Fifth Dimension to the Carpenters and Glen Campbell.

As Davidson returns to the bridge, it’s easy to appreciate what Osborn saw in the youngster. “Heartbreaker” comes back full circle, with Davidson launching into a chest-filling sing-along. An empowering look at that moment when goodbye seems like the only answer, this song feels like something handcrafted for a mainstream radio audience, even as it boasts splashes of timeless grit.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.