The first thing you'll notice is the voice. Matt Woods has a robust, vibrato-heavy baritone that is unmistakably country. His drawl is neither muted nor faked, and it's twangy as hell. He sounds good singing smooth and steady or letting it rip, his timbre becoming ragged and strained. His is an unforgettable set of pipes.
The next thing that sticks out is the songwriting. Or maybe that's the first thing. They are both more than notable, so you're right either way.
Matt's writing is truth. Period. Exclamation point. "It ain't no living, it's my life" he sings on With Love from Brushy Mountain's opener, a treatise on the road life of a singer. "I'll trade you a song for a beer" and there's no doubt some nights that's all he got paid and in the grand scheme of things, he didn't mind too much.
"Tiny Anchors" is a showcase of Woods' songwriting abilities. It's a subtle, insightful look into what are possibly last days of a relationship. But there's still some hope. "Hang on with me" he pleads.
Then there's "Deadman's Blues," which was FTM's 2013 song of the year. It's still as striking and raw as ever and it's the apologetic heart of this record.
"Lucero Song" speaks to all of us fans of the little band from Tennessee. Woods gets meta, describing his own drunken loneliness inside the frame of this being something Ben Nichols and the boys might sing to some rowdy crowd. Now, if Lucero ever covers this song, the universe might implode.
Matt Woods has released his strongest album to date with With Love from Brushy Mountain. He's shaken off some of the "spot the influence" unsureness I heard in his earlier works and found his own voice and sound. This is country music filtered through rock, folk, punk, red-dirt and bar room soul and it doesn't sound like anybody else. For me it falls into the realm of what mainstream country should have evolved into, rather than the Fords and fornication free-for-all that it is. Highly recommended for fans of Lucero, Fifth on the Floor, Shooter Jennings, John Moreland, etc.