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BWW Album Review: Stearns Matthews' DECEMBER SONGS Shimmers with Vibrancy

BWW Album Review: Stearns Matthews' DECEMBER SONGS Shimmers with VibrancyStearns Matthews, a Bistro and Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs (MAC) Award-winning vocalist, recently released DECEMBER SONGS. This album is the first male recording of Maury Yeston's 1991 song cycle, which is inspired by Franz Schubert's beloved Winterreise song cycle. With this album, Matthews' shimmering and spirited tenor instrument better connects Yeston's cycle to his inspiration while allowing listeners to get lost in these snow-covered tunes.

Unlike Winterreise, which is heartbreakingly somber, Yeston's December Songs are particularly less dark. Yeston allows his cycle to relish in moments of playful and even romantic ebullience, which serves to counter the bittersweet moments. This is something that is not lost on Matthews, especially as he sings "When Your Love Is New," "My Grandmother's Love Letters," and "I Had a Dream About You" with charming vivacity.

During the cycle's more tumultuous moments, Matthews capably adds depth and weight to his performance and highlights the encroaching shadows written into the music. His "Where Are You Now?" and "Please Let's Not Even Say Hello" are emotionally effective. Yet, Matthews is at his best on "Bookseller in the Rain" and "By the River," where he truly makes the anguished heartache of the narrator exceptionally palpable. The despondent fragility captured by his voice on "Bookseller in the Rain" and the frenzied, suicidal urgency he brings to "By the River" make these two tracks the shining stars of the album.

As the narrator recovers from the grief experienced, Matthews ends the album with a sense of hope. Using his vocals to tell the story, Matthews' expressive tenor ensures listeners recognize the narrator has healed and found the resolution to move forward from the failed love affair being sung about.

Stearns Matthews' DECEMBER SONGS can be purchased from CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon. For more information, please visit You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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