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Lashoff growing on the ice, in the studio

by Joe Landolfi /
Matt Lashoff only has his father to blame.

When he was 3, his father built an ice rink in the backyard of their East Greenbush, N.Y. home for him and his brother, Brian. Almost immediately he was hooked, and Matt's career path was set.

But there also was that whole music thing. Lashoff's father is an accomplished guitarist who had played in bands since Matt was born. He taught Matt the love of the guitar at an early age.

Fast forward 23 years later and it's no wonder Lashoff finds himself living a double life -- rugged, crease-clearing defenseman for the Maple Leafs by day; guitarist/singer/songwriter by night.

"Playing guitar, and music in general, has been such a great release for me from the enduring hockey season," he wrote on his website, "I recently found a piece of paper from when I was 10 with a list of my goals. The first was to make the NHL. Within that list of around five things was to record an album."

He accomplished that goal when his debut CD, "Living on Heart," was released earlier this week. It's an enjoyable collection of well-written blues and acoustic rock. "Heart" is comprised of 11 tracks, seven penned by Lashoff himself, plus four covers: Little Feat's "Cold, Cold Cold"; Eric Clapton's "Before You Accuse Me"; Kenny Wayne Shepherd's "While We Cry"; and the theme to Hockey Night in Canada.

Aiding Lashoff was a seasoned backing band. Kenny Aronoff (drums) is best known for being the back-beat of John Mellencamp for over 17 years. Leland Sklar (bass) has contributed to thousands of albums as a session musician. David Sancious (piano) has worked with artists such as Stanley Clarke, Peter Gabriel, and Sting. Brent Mason (acoustic guitar) is a 12-time winner of the Academy of Country Music Guitarist of the Year Award and a two-time winner of the CMA Award Musician of the Year.

I know what you're thinking: "I could strum a few chords and record an album too if I had a virtual 'Who's Who' of the music industry at my disposal." I'm with you. I thought the same thing. Then I watched a video of Lashoff ripping it up on an acoustic guitar alone in a room and it was quite the jaw-dropper.

If that's not evidence enough, take a listen to the guitar solo in "While We Cry." I assumed it was some long-time session player that had to have laid down that track, but no -- it was Lashoff ripping it up once again. 

Lashoff's vocals call to mind John Mayer -- smooth, melodic and soulful. I kept looking for that "pitchy" moment in a song, but it never happened. 

The only negative was Lashoff's cover of the sacred "Hockey Night in Canada" theme song.  Turning an entire country's most important song next to its national anthem into a twanging, country song wasn't a strong decision.

Lashoff was drafted by the Boston Bruins with the 22nd pick of the 2005 Entry Draft, and after making his debut in 2006, he spent parts of the next three seasons with the Bruins. He was dealt to the Lightning at the 2009 trade deadline for Mark Recchi and then just before training camp this season he was traded to the Maple Leafs. He had 28 points in 69 AHL games, but was called up in March and played the last 11 games of the season with Leafs, totaling 1 assist, six penalty minutes and eight shots.

I'm sure Lashoff has been on the receiving end of a naysayer's, "Hey Matt, don't quit your day job," followed by a friendly chuckle, but "Living on Heart" is good.
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