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Matthew Sabatella is back to music-making after his self-imposed three-years-plus immersion in cyberspace. Putting his own music career in mothballs, Sabatella set up the online music company SlipstreamPresents.com in early 1998. This week he's finally found the time to release a followup to his 1997 album, Where the Hell Am I? Not that he's had the luxury of time (or desire) to orchestrate the kind of five-studio/six-engineer/seven-musician effort put into that earlier release. "I spent a year working on it, one evening a week," Sabatella says of his latest album, A Walk in the Park. "In actual hours it could've been done in three or four days."
This album and the rest of Sabatella's music and videos, along with those of a host of other local bands from around the nation, can be sampled and purchased from SlipstreamPresents.com. Sabatella conceived of the Internet site as a means to directly connect independent musicians with fans from around the world, while sidestepping the predictable pap offered by the big five music giants. He began work on the site with a technical knowledge as meager as his computer at the time -- an anemic PC that could just manage word processing and e-mail. Despite the length of the learning curve, SlipstreamPresents.com was up and running by January 1999, and now offers videos, new releases, old standards, demos, works in progress, and tracks previously unreleased or soon-to-be released in MP3, Liquid Audio, or Real Media format.
Unlike the megasites MP3.com and IUMA, which welcome all comers and appeared after Sabatella introduced his site, SlipstreamPresents.com filters the content of the artists posted on the site, mostly through Sabatella's own ears. And even though many of the artists seem to be from the South Florida scene, there are no restrictions on genre or geography, covering local styles as diverse as the Spam Allstars and Jim Wurster & the Atomic Cowboys. "Slipstream is more than a local music Website," explains Sabatella. "The idea is to capture a style of music, something where people will go because they like some of the stuff that's there."
This Sunday those fans with an Internet hookup and a Real Audio player can hear A Walk in the Park in its entirety between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. at either of Sabatella's two Websites: matthewsabatella.com and SlipstreamPresents.com. That broadcast will follow the October 19 release of his second full-length CD.
Active in the local music scene since 1987 with the band Broken Spectacles, Sabatella has been performing and recording as a solo artist since 1994, while contributing his musical talents to a variety of local acts, including Amanda Green, the Curious Hair, Diane Ward, Maria Marocka, Sixo, and Mary Karlzen. After recording the lauded Where the Hell Am I?, he stepped out of the spotlight to create SlipstreamPresents.com.
Sabatella resurfaces now as a solo artist with a solid roots-rock effort. Spare and intimate, A Walk in the Park lets the singer/songwriter's vocal prowess shine in its full emotive range, while the well-crafted and eclectic mix of songs unfolds organically. Recorded on an eight-track analog at the Ranch studio with engineer and coproducer Mitchel Gurdjian at the controls, the mostly acoustic set features Sabatella on vocals and all instruments (guitar, keyboards, bass, drums), with appearances by Debbie Duke on bass and Gary Norton on drums.
Unlike Where the Hell Am I?, where one could almost hear the sweat that poured into the making, like pushing boulders uphill, the music in A Walk in the Park sounds easy and relaxed, without becoming "lite" or losing any of the urgency that infused the first CD. Which was Sabatella's intention: Instead of spending seven hours setting up mikes in a hi-tech studio, this time around they pointed a mike at the drum kit and started playing.
This casual approach comes across in the breezy delivery of "Welcome," a sweet nugget of a song about embracing youth, worries and all. And it is heard in the downright playful "Sir George," a song that could pass for unplugged XTC, with Sabatella dropping to a deep baritone. Sabatella's vocals and musicianship have always been strong, but on A Walk in the Park the veteran rocker has matured tremendously as a songwriter in the vein of a Martin Sexton or Jack Logan.
For Sabatella the change is less evolution than a return to origins. "I don't know how specifically the Website affected the music," he says, "but it was definitely over those years that my instincts came to clutter the music less and just try to get to the heart of the song. It's actually more like I've always sounded than a departure. My first and favorite recordings were always by myself in the bedroom on a four-track cassette recorder, and this has much more that sound. For one, because we didn't have all the tracks to work with, and I didn't double all the instruments and do umpteen overdubs on everything, so this is actually more of a return to the way I like myself sounding best."