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Local country music lad done good

You wouldn't know that Matt Joe Gow grew up in Dunedin listening to Flying Nun bands like The Chills and Straitjacket Fits. He sounds more like he's from a place where alt country Americana bands might come from. And on ocassion Gow has a downhome warble to his voice like Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder - only with less of a red wine stammer to it.

In fact, after travelling the world, this straggly-haired fella settled in Melbourne a few years back. It was then he got his band the Dead Leaves together to create the type of "raw" music his heroes Neil Young and Wilco might make, although songs like At the Bar and Steady Life have a polished John Mellencamp feel to them rather than the grit of Young or the unhinged tendencies of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy.

But it's Gow's effortless yet slightly wild delivery that makes these songs so strong.

Opener Come To Mama, She Say kicks along at a thigh-slapping rate; the lush layering of harmonica, organ, and electric and acoustic guitars on The Light is stunning; and album highlight Land Is Burning is a grinding slugger of a track that smoulders, snakes and twists its way into life.

The Messenger is a top debut, with promise of better to come, and it's a pity we might be a little too late to claim Gow entirely as our own.

Scott Kara