Review: Mat Kearney, “City of Black & White”

Mat Kearney, City of Black & WhiteAs a singer/songwriter originally from Eugene, Oregon now based in Nashville, Tennessee, Mat Kearney has his work cut out for him. Nashville is full of his type, but most people don’t venture into a form of acoustic hip-hop like Kearney did. After getting signed to Columbia Records, he released a second version of his debut album, Bullet, titled Nothing Left To Lose. It was this stylistic change that proved he had power to make it on the airwaves, and Columbia obviously didn’t want to miss out on that. With his third album (as the record label is calling it) City of Black & White, Kearney shows how he can morph into a more pop-fueled act, which will likely disappoint some fans as the rapping that was so prominent on tracks like “Undeniable” and the second album’s title track is now gone.

On City of Black & White, Mat Kearney has made a switch to full pop/acoustic, and the songs are still as good as his previous ones. Songs like the first single “Closer to Love” and “Fire and Rain” are similar in chorus use and verse structure, but they make for great, catchy tunes. The album’s intro, “All I Have” starts the album out on a high note, and gives listeners a look at how the production has changed. These songs have more piano than we’re used to hearing from this singer/songwriter, but he proves he can play both instruments well. “New York to California” appears at the halfpoint of the 12-track album, and is completely a piano ballad, reminiscent of Coldplay’s “Yellow”, with just as much hit potential. Other songs like “Runaway Car” have quite a catchy feel to them, while “Annie” is a steady beat but makes for an intimate moment on the album.

Overall, this album is full of radio-friendly tracks from Mat Kearney, and will likely be a successful album for him. Unfortunately, many fans appreciate the change of pace that Kearney was known for on his debut and re-release, incorporating hip-hop verses into an acoustic setting. Those elements are gone, and his fan base may suffer from that fact. If you’re a fan of Kearney’s old stuff, don’t shrug this album off right away. There’s likely something on here you’ll find you like, and new fans will definitely find plenty to enjoy from this talented singer/songwriter.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

  1. Great review! I can’t wait to listen to this album all the way through!


    • Nicholas Lowery
    • May 23rd, 2009

    Hey Justin. Dude I have to say that’s a great review. I know that I was not fond of the new album near as much as the old one. I agree that he may lose some fans but I think he may gain a whole new listening audience. You should review Confide’s album “Shout the Truth” if you haven’t already. I’m interested to see what you think.

    • Adam
    • June 15th, 2009

    Heya roomie! As one of his “old” fans, I totally agree. My first impression of the album wasn’t a good one. It wasn’t until I listened through the CD a few times that I started to enjoy it more. It’s definitely different, but good in other ways. Good review! =)

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