BEST SONGWRITER (2001)
The late Glenrustles piled great line atop great line like coats on a bed at a party, but frontman Rich Mattson always seemed ready to flop down on them anyway. It wasn't that his songwriting lacked wit or passion, just that his spiritual weariness ran so deep that for 12 years he seemed perilously close to becoming a mellower, crustier Paul Westerberg--and we have plenty of those already. Perhaps what makes him a gentle rocker, though, also makes him a gifted talker. The self-titled debut of his new band Ol' Yeller (on SMA Records) hardly sounds resigned or pat: Mattson is writing his purest and prettiest pop yet, and the singer-guitarist's "To Thine Own Self" feels like sunshine and a knock-knock joke before breakfast. "I once had a woman who'd never be my wife," he croons. "I couldn't live without her/But here I am alive." The sound is so open, simple, and rich, it recalls Tom Petty in his freefalling years. Just keep Jeff Lynne away from the premises.