Dallas singer-songwriter Matt Hillyer roams free on ‘Bright Skyline,’ his latest solo LP

Matt Hillyer Photo: Brooks Burris

For Bright Skyline, his second solo album in as many years, Matt Hillyer is clearly not sitting idle. Skyline follows last year’s Glorieta, which was the singer-songwriter’s first proper solo release in nearly 10 years.

It’s a looser, rowdier affair — relatively speaking — than Glorieta, even as it reunites him with that LP’s producer, John Pedigo.  “John and I hit a pretty good stride on the last record, so we didn’t want to take too much time before we got back in and started work on the next one,” Hillyer said in a statement.

These 11 songs also veer more closely toward Hillyer’s long-time and now defunct band, Eleven Hundred Springs, which hung up its spurs in 2021. The lead-off track, “What Are You Doing Now?” co-written with Max Stalling, is a straight-up country shuffle, while the fiddle-goosed “If I Didn’t Have You” splits the difference between Elvis Presley and Hank Williams to winning effect.

Hillyer’s a veteran song-slinger, with decades of experience soundtracking last call in honky-tonks and dancehalls alike, and that skill seasons every note on Bright Skyline to perfection. He’ll celebrate the record’s release Saturday with a headlining set at Dallas’ Kessler Theater.

Glittering guest list

Hillyer’s formidable chops are worth the price of admission alone, but he’s loaded up the record (apart from renowned local musician Pedigo manning the board) with plenty of bold-faced names: Pedal steel maestro Lloyd Maines makes an appearance, as does Willie Nelson bassist Kevin Smith, fiddler Heather Stalling, drummer Arjuna Contreras and bassist James Driscoll. Hillyer also enlisted Mando Saenz for co-writes, alongside Max Stalling.

Exploring new territory

Throughout Bright Skyline’s 11 tracks, Hillyer demonstrates a willingness to wander afield from the hardcore country with which he made his name. The double-time swing of “It Would Take a Miracle” juxtaposes well with the introspective title tune, a pensive composition verging on full-blown folk-rock, and “Green Eyes,” a flirtation with punk energy. “With Bright Skyline, I want to tour as much as possible,” Hillyer said in a statement. “I want to keep myself open to all the different genres that I can actually do, just to keep myself on my toes, and be able to do any and all of it for any of my shows. That’s what I want to do.”

Matt Hillyer Bright Skyline release concert at Kessler Theater, Dallas. 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $22-$336.

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on X (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.