Album Review of
Simple Man

Written by Val Vaccaro
September 14, 2019 - 9:22pm EDT
Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star

Simple Man is Matt Marshak’s impressive Americana/Country album debut in 2019 of heartfelt songs filled with inspiring messages about life and love. Marshak makes music history with his transition as a successful contemporary jazz artist for over a decade and a half to his new role as singer/songwriter/guitarist in Americana/Roots/Country music. Marshak’s liner notes state that “This is the recording I’ve dreamed of making my whole life…a heartfelt collection of tunes with a hopeful and honest message.”  

Songs from the album Simple Man have received radio airplay with a multitude of stations in the Triple A, Non-Commercial, and Country format. The Simple Man album includes Matt Marshak on lead (and background) vocals playing acoustic and electric guitars on original, moving ballads and upbeat catchy songs composed or co-penned by Marshak.  The music on Marshak’s Simple Man record is a mixture of roots, country, blues, rock and more.  Matt Marshak’s artistic sensibility echoes Country and Americana artists such as Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Brett Eldridge, and Keith Urban as well as classic pop music singer-songwriters like Ed Sheeran, James Taylor, and Paul Simon. Many of Matt Marshak’s lyrics and melodies have the honesty and directness of John Prine (e.g. “God Only Knows”), the melodic tenderness of Ed Sheeran (e.g. “Photograph”), and the purity of Casey Musgrave (e.g. “Rainbow”)..

Grammy-Award winning producer Ben Wisch mixed and/or produced eight of the eleven catchy tunes on Matt Marshak’s Simple Man album. Marshak wrote seven of the songs on the Simple Man record, and co-composed four of the tunes with Nashville songwriters Cara Graham Hogan and Steve Dean. (Steve Dean has written six number one Billboard country hits, and composed songs for country music artists like Reba McEntire, Rodney Atkins, Lee Greenwood, Oak Ridge Boys, Alabama, and others.)  

Matt Marshak’s Simple Man album is easy to listen to from beginning to end, with inspirational lyrics and pleasing melodies.  The songs are about personal growth, love, and universal concern for people and the state of the world. 

The outstanding title track “Simple Man” is a down-to-earth, warm, pretty, mid-tempo song with Matt Marshak on lead vocals and playing catchy reassuring guitar melodies and riffs. “Simple Man’” is in a similar vein to country music songs such as Cody Johnson’s “On My Way to You,” Russell Dickerson’s “Yours,” and Brett Eldridge’s “Long Way Around.”  “Simple Man” was mixed by Ben Wisch (e.g. co-producer of Marc Cohn’s hit song “Walking in Memphis” and platinum-selling debut album). Matt Marshak’s  “Simple Man” video on his Facebook page has received over 220,000 views from people in the U.S. and all over the world.   In the “Simple Man” video, Marshak drives an old Chevy pick-up truck (with an American flag on the front) on open country roads, gets a guitar to give to his nine-year old daughter, and has a cookout with his wife Dionne, daughter Madison, brother and drummer Chris Marshak, and bassist Pat Falco.

Matt Marshak’s buoyantly upbeat, encouraging, and enthusiastic anthemic “One in a Million (Still Got a Chance)” was mixed by Grammy-nominated, platinum award winning producer Billy Hume and co-composed by Marshak with Steve Dean and Cara Hogan. “One in a Million” is a catchy, up-tempo, inspirational self-affirmation for anyone with a dream willing to take a chance - reminiscent of artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Bonnie Raitt.

Matt Marshak’s “Prayer for You” co-written with Steve Dean and Cara Hogan is a beautiful, poignant ballad with the sweet, soulful heart and purity of Kacey Musgraves’ “Rainbow”. Marshak's “Prayer for You” also has the sentimentality of Scotty McCreery’s “Five More Minutes”, Lee Brice’s “I Drive Your Truck”, Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” and John Prine’s “God Only Knows.”   Marshak recently release a new video of “Prayer for You” with the soothing view of the beach water in the background (filmed by Victoria Kolasinski) on his Facebook page with a link on his website. The YouTube video description for “Prayer for You” says it’s “A song of hope for those going through a rough stretch of life.”

“Find a Way (Live This Day)” is a catchy, memorable, peaceful song that also takes the listener on a journey with an encouraging, inspirational message of being in the moment and making the most of one’s life. “Find a Way (Live this Day)” was mixed by Ben Wisch and has some similarity to Kenny Chesney’s “Every Heart”.

The philosophical, contemplative views on “Tell Me Something Good” (co-written by Steve Dean, Cara Hogan and Matt Marshak) is also musically reminiscent of a Paul Simon tune. “Tell Me Something Good” is about the proliferation of bad news and the state of this world. This song would be perfect background music for a feature story on a TV news program such as the CBS This Morning series “A More Perfect Union.” Marshak’s song “Tell me Something Good” could have as its counterpart “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” by David Lee Murphy and Kenny Chesney.

“Build Me Up” co-composed by Marshak with Mike Delguidice is a whimsical, tongue-in-cheek mid-tempo tune which will bring a smile to your face and is also evocative of a Paul Simon tune. Marshak’s acoustic guitar and vocal approach and demeanor have been also influenced by James Taylor.

To shake things up, Marshak’s “Way Down” is an upbeat, boisterous, honky-tonk, fun, foot-tapping, danceable, country tune that could have been a good fit to perform on the “Nashville” TV series had it still been on the air.   

Marshak’s Simple Man album also includes love songs such as “Thankful to Be Your Man” and “Hurts Each Time.” Marshak’s “Thankful to Be Your Man” is also indicative of a Paul Simon or Carly Simon tune and could also make a good TV show or movie theme. “Leave My Worries” has a similar mood and has the potential to be performed with an inspirational gospel arrangement.  

Matt Marshak’s compassionate songs could also be appropriate for promoting nonprofit organizations that support worthwhile causes (e.g. for health issues, or to help the homeless and other disadvantaged populations). This is fitting, since in his musical work, Marshak, who has an award-winning children’s music program, has supported numerous causes including Autism Awareness, Multiple Sclerosis, and Cerebral Palsy. Also, Marshak’s 2017 New Age CD Year’s was licensed to the Healing Healthcare Systems’ C.A.R.E. music channel to hospitals across America to support relaxation, healing, and recovery. Marshak’s Simple Man CD provides its own musical, spiritual and emotionally inspirational journey.

Matt Marshak is a talented singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer whose debut Americana/Roots/Country music album Simple Man is just the tip of the iceberg with much more great music to crossover and share with the world in the future.

Simple Man Album Music Credits:  Composers: Matt Marshak, Steve Dean, Cara Graham Hogan. Matt Marshak (lead vocals, acoustic and electric guitars). Eight songs mixed/produced by Ben Wisch (with recording engineer Ken Wallace on two tracks; Other tracks mixed by Billy Hume, Eddie Gore, Ryan Youmans. Musicians: Benjie Porecki (keyboards), Michael Webb (keyboards – who has worked with artists such as Chris Stapleton and Brandi Carlisle), Alex Wright (Keyboards – who has worked with artists such as Brett Eldridge), Jonathan Preddice (background vocals and cello), Chris Marshak (drums who has worked with artists such as Steve Winwood), Christian Dorn (drums) Pat Falco (bass, bass guitar), Kenny Harris (bass and background vocals), Andy Ellison (pedal steel – who has worked with country artist Jon Pardi), Sean Michael Ray (bass guitar), and on background vocals Eugene Ruffolo, Ronnie Queen, and Mary Gatchell.