Long time Galleywinter favorite and honky-tonk road warrior, Matt Hillyer, is putting out his first solo endeavor since the 2021 retirement of his beloved band of 23 years, Eleven Hundred Springs.
Hillyer still has stuff to stay, and no doubt many of the songs making their debut on his new record, Glorieta were birthed from the much esteemed “Sequester Songwriters” writing circle that commenced during the heart of the pandemic. Hillyer along with Courtney Patton, Jason Eady, Josh Grider and probably two dozen other names we all know, spent weeks honing their writing skill with weekly song writing prompts. Songs would be written then trotted out online over livestreams like a grade school show and tell. A six month continuous song writing workshop had to produce something worthwhile, and we are finally getting to see it all this week.
Glorieta features Matt Hillyer stretching his legs and exploring different territory. “Ordinary Man”, an ode to Hillyer’s father, wraps the blue-collar family man experience with an eerie, almost Pink Floyd like vibe. “Diablo Motel” also takes a left turn in the ambiance department. Accordion coupled with a jazzy bass line provide the spooky backdrop to Hillyer realizing he’s trapped in some version of Hell.
“Stolen Kisses” and “What Kind of Fool” are two favorites on the record. The former features Hillyer doing his best Roy Orbison with some Marty Robbins giddy up for good measure. The latter is a soft, bluesy ballad that’s just beautifully executed. The somber waltz, “Just Passing Through,” feels like a Vince Gill heartbreaker, with Hillyer crooning after realizing that the woman he wanted to settle down with had no intention of stopping.
But despite the change of pace, Eleven Hundred Springs fans won’t be left wanting, as the rest of the album brings Hillyer’s signature western swing, honky-tonk toe tappers. “You Gotta Keep Moving”, “That’s How You Know”, and “Dirty Little Secrets” could all slide into an Eleven Hundred Springs set list.
There are no bits with Glorieta, it's not flashy, there are no party anthems or bangers, but it's damn good. Hillyer has always been an advocate for classic country music and themes, having spent his entire career ensuring it lives on, whether it be with his former band or with the solo projects he’s undertaken. He dips his toes into some different waters on this record, but no question it’s still Matt Hillyer through and through.
I mentioned Vince Gill, and I can’t help but draw comparisons between Hillyer and Gill as I listened to this record. Admittedly some of that is in the timbre and vocal style, but I also think it goes deeper. Over the course of their careers both have always consistently put out a quality country product in their pursuit of being authentic and carrying the torch for the genres they love. I also see them both as quiet, but highly respected leaders in their respective scenes. Obviously Vince Gill has Country Music Hall of Fame reach, but that doesn’t diminish the amount of respect Hillyer garners from his songwriting peers and the imprint he’s made on this scene since carrying those Monday nights at Adair’s 25 years ago.
Glorieta will be available in its entirety this Friday, but to quinch your thirst in the meantime, check out “Holding Fast” featuring Heather Stalling sawing those strings.