Sonshine in Shelbyville

Lewis Mathis (Independent)

Lewis Mathis

By David Lilly

The first rays of feedback-sun stream through the blinds, seeming to bring a new ray of hope. The crashing of drums and bass abruptly attacks that peaceful scene as Lewis Mathis sings in sheer frustration, "I know you can hear me/ but you just turn away." Appropriately for "Holy Cow," a song about relationship struggles, his voice is buried about waist deep in the mix. After a few minutes of this percussive storm comes the quieter acoustic strumming of a musical rainbow that closes the song.

Welcome to the second full-length CD (the first was eponymous) by this multi-instrumentalist songwriter from Shelbyville, Ky. Mathis is sort of Shelbyville's version of Prince or Paul McCartney (with encouragement and professional help from the owner/engineer at Backstreet Studios), in the sense that he is prolific and plays all the instruments on this album. His voice is similar to Paul Simon's, with a touch of Sting in a slightly lower octave.

You can't turn your stereo into a bubblegum machine with Mathis' music. It is spiritual in nature, which means you won't hear it on the Casey Kasem countdown or find it listed in Billboard. That's not to insinuate that it is either pretentious or unworthy, but it is challenging to categorize. Given Mathis' commitment to his faith, it's fitting to say that each of his songs is a prayer, including the instrumentals (check out his CD Spirit World). What at first might come across as melancholy is actually meditative.

On the other hand, "Open Space" isn't melancholy at all. It conjures the image of a couple in a canoe, their spirits fed by absorbing visions of nature while steering their craft but not paddling with the slow current of a calm river or stream. It's a soothing aural massage, especially for news junkies like me. Comforting precipitation falls gently throughout this disc with songs titled "Nocturnal Rain," "Raining in Chicago" and several songs, like "Flying Again," that evoke peaceful drizzles of meditation. "Like a Dream" quietly but jubilantly celebrates the joy and wonder of fatherhood. The CD closes with precipitation from tear ducts through the sad, but also lovely and brief, "Coming In." You can contact Mathis at