Matt Townsend and The Wonder of the World - The Wonder of the World (Cover Artwork)

Matt Townsend and The Wonder of the World

The Wonder of the World (2014)

Eternal Mind Records

Dylan's influence is absolutely unescapable in the work of dream–folk troubadour Matt Townsend, whose album The Wonder of the World explores the themes of "the precarious beauty of human life" and "the mysterious forces of the Universe" through philosophical lyrics, steady–strummed acoustica and the bittersweet cadences of the pedal steel guitar. Steeped in folk tradition, it's an old–school sound that somehow feels fresh as a daisy. Townsend even occasionally veers just a little out–of–tune, in exactly that way Dylan used to, and you almost wonder if it's deliberate.

A singer/songwriter from Asheville, North Carolina, Matt Townsend has toured throughout the Southeastern US, Vermont, Massachusetts and Ireland, graduating over the years from street corner–busking to full venue headline sets. He has a small army of musicians surrounding him on The Wonder of the World, and together they create a warm, soothing, homespun folk–rock sound. It's soulful and whimsical, bringing to mind (on top of Dylan) Neil Young, Ryan Adams and even Nirvana in their quieter, acoustic moments.

Highlights include "Carry On", with its simple, soaring chorus and gorgeous hammond organs, the anthemic "Love I'm Coming Home" and the contemplative album closer "Gratitude In Being", in which Townsend muses "Thank you for this spirit, this body, this mind…".

Basically, if you can't stand Bob Dylan, get out of the kitchen. But if that kind of thing floats your boat, you'll really enjoy The Wonder of the World. It's a record that yearns for a bygone era, while at the same time looking forward to contemplate the future.