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Matt Aragon
Artist: Dogwood
Label: Tooth & Nail
Time: 11 tracks, 35:24 minutes

Not even a year has passed since punk-rockers Dogwood released Building a Better Me and already enough material has been collected and compiled to form their latest offering, Matt Aragon.  Drawn from an aborted attempt at a ‘punk musical’ as well as songs written between October and January 2000, this album is a scattered blend of curiously melodic and signature tracks.

The album opens with a strangely soft acoustic guitar in harmony with the strains of a harmonica.  “1983,” though deceptively quiet to begin with, suddenly bursts into an explosion of sound and energy a few seconds into the track.  The song, as explained by guitarist Sean O’Donnell, is about childhood dreams versus reality.  Dedicated to this year’s graduating class, 1983 refers to the birth year of many current high school seniors.

“Nothing Is Everything,” springs back to the energy-charged ‘rocker’ track this San Diego, CA band is known for.  “Lonely Road” picks up the punk influences where track one left off, featuring a driving guitar and drum track, and real life lyrics to match. 

Track five, “Juice,” conveys both musically and lyrically, the deep frustration of trying to live a godly life amidst the pressures and human irritations of daily life.  The song chronicles feelings from the top all the way to the bottom of the emotional scale and the realization that the author has strayed from where he needed to be.

“Do Or Die” is a solemn yet boisterous worship song.  “When it came to do or die/You died for me/Though I would be nothing perfect/For human eyes to see.”

Tracks eight, nine and ten: “Singular,” “Challenger,” and “Reasoner” all cover the topic of witnessing and the various frustrations associated with an unreceptive person and personal failings, while the final track, “Ballad Of Hope,” is a sincerely worshipful song of thanks to God for salvation.

Matt Aragon once again harnesses Dogwood’s live energy and compacts it into a portable concert.  The album reveals the continuing maturity of the band as well as proving the band still rocks.

Kerry Maffeo 10/6/2001

Have you ever been on AOL Instant Messenger and been prompted to download an upgrade? So you download the upgrade and install it and quickly find that the new version is virtually identical to the old version. This is what I find with Dogwood's new album Matt Aragon.

Right on the heels of their last album Building a Better Me, one of the best punk rock albums released in recent years, Matt Aragon is a quick attempt to pick up where Building left off. What I found upon listening to the two albums back to back is that they are virtually identical, but with two differences: Building a Better Me is packaged better and has more music on it.

Once you put aside comparisons to past Dogwood and put Matt Aragon up against other recent punk rock efforts, you will quickly see that this is an album that can hold its own. 

Truth be told, there are many good songs on this record. "1983," the album opener, talks about childhood dreams versus reality. "Lonely Road" is a song about the choice to follow God. "Ballad of Hope," the closing song, states that we have hope that is He on His way. 

Musically, this is melodic punk music with a gruff-sounding (as opposed to annoying-sounding) singer. In fact, vocalist Josh Kemble may be the best voice in this vein of music right now. "Nothing Is Everything" rocks out. The lead on "Lonely Road" is pretty cool as well. 

All in all, this is a good album, but I don't see much progress from the last Dogwood CD. Maybe if they'll wait a couple years before releasing their next album, we'll see more of a musical progression.

Trae Cadenhead 11/4/2001



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