Perseverance is certainly striking when you consider the recent diminishment of the American dream; taking into account that our most prevalent career aspirations have been thrown by the wayside in favor of comfort and stability. Then, there are those rare breeds that seem to have triumphed doing what they love above all else, despite the aforesaid statement. And then, there are extraordinary circumstances such as with Matt Lashoff.
For those that are not familiar with the National Hockey League, Matt Lashoff was a 2005 first-round draft pick of the Boston Bruins, and since has spent time with the Tampa Bay Lightning and (most recently) Toronto Maple Leafs. As of May 15th, 2011 however, the NHL defensemen cannot solely be viewed as professional hockey player. Entering a line of work that has been subject to a wide range of success rates for athlete/musicians, Lashoff could have joined the likes of Shaq, Broson Arroyo, and even Oscar de la Hoya. Fortunately for Lashoff however, his full-length debut Living on Heart is evidence that his music career is much more reminiscent of accomplished jazz guitarist Bernie Williams than the others.
Within the opening seconds of “Save Me,” it becomes overly apparent where Living on Heart’s influence was embedded. Everything from his suave croon down to his fantastic talent on the axe, Lashoff’s debut sounds very much like a John Mayer record, whether this was on purpose or not. To put the inseparable comparison aside however, Living on Heart is a cohesive collection of pop-rock tracks that are not only a pleasant listen, but are also demonstrations of Lashoff’s tremendous potential. What seems to stand heads and shoulders above the rest are the distinctive guitar leads that are scattered throughout the record. Utilizing a bluesy, and sometimes country-tinged style, Lashoff’s guitar playing is what presents Living on Heart with its defining attribute. Case and point with “Something I Know” and Eric Clapton cover “Before You Accuse Me,” which prove to be a few of the record’s most engaging tracks. The latter is not only elevated by Lashoff’s guitar work, but also the brilliantly placed gospel vocals. The backing vocals, which are performed by Carmen Twille, Clydene Jackson, and Terry Wood, offer just one instance of many special guest appearances. Also featured on guitar at some point in the release are Matt’s brother Brian, and journeyman Waddy Watchtel, who has played with everyone from Bob Dylan, to Adam Sandler over the course of his career. Watchtel’s existence on slide guitar advances the magnitude of country-tinged cover “Hockey Night in Canada,” which not only serves as a fitting closer to Living on Heart, but also reiterates the fantastic instrumental talent of the album.
Some may consider a foray into music for an athlete to be a precarious task, but in the case of Matt Lashoff, Living on Heart appears to be just as natural for him as anything he has done on the blue line. From the anthemic title track to the blues-laden instrumental “While We Cry” (Kenny Wayne Shepherd cover), Lashoff’s debut album is a consistent collection of songs, heightened by terrific production, soothing vocals, and outstanding axe work. With all of this in place however, Lashoff’s instrumental prowess is likely to overshadow his capacity on vocals and songwriting, and many will find it difficult to separate Lashoff from pop-rock giant John Mayer. For now, Living on Heart is confirmation of a man that has made significant progress in two of his desired careers; two more than many of us will ever realize.
2. Branch Ave.
3. Wasting Away
4. Fall Apart
5. Living on Heart
6. Cold, Cold, Cold
7. Before You Accuse Me
8. Something I Know
9. Clear Sky
10. While We Cry
11. Hockey Night in Canada
Matt Robert Lashoff (born September 29, 1986 in E. Greenbush, NY, USA) is an American professional ice hockey defenseman and professional musician currently playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL.... read more