Showing posts with label Matthew Martin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matthew Martin. Show all posts

Jun 17, 2022

Album Review / IV & The Strange Band / Southern Circus

By Matthew Martin

I don't think you'd be necessarily at fault for being a bit leery of another generation of the Hank Williams lineage. I mean, we're on the 4th line here. It's worth being suspicious. I was a little put-off by the whole idea. Here we have Hank 3's only son calling himself "IV" and his band "The Strange Band." It feels like this is about to be reductive. And I guess maybe it is to an extent. But, one thing is apparent here - IV has every intention of taking every single part of his lineage and making it his own. He's done a damn fine job of it on his debut album, Southern Circus.

IV himself acknowledges that it was a struggle to shoulder the name while trying to make a name for himself. I think what you get with this album is a complete acknowledgement of that name with some very good jukebox-ready country songs as well taking those country instruments and turning up the distortion on those instruments. When "Stand Your Ground" moves from delicately-picked country folk to more driving rock, it fits. You can start connecting those dots of where he comes. But again, don't think of this album as complete nostalgia. There are stories here in a way that none of the Williams that came before quite have done. Songs with compelling stories fill the album up mostly to the brim. Yeah, there are a few songs that are vessels for the band and that's fine too because the band is tight. The band knows what they're doing. They're bought into this notion that genres don't have to be exclusive. "I'm Gonna Haunt You" is this kind of song. The lyrics are fine, not particularly memorable, but the music is infectious and brooding- and for those of us that listen to country music and heavier rock music, I think sometimes we gravitate to that, so it works for me.

But, then we get to "Malice" and let me tell ya, this is one of the shiners of the album for me. It has a killer fiddle line. It's a song about a couple that hates each other. It's a sad country song. The way IV lets the music breathe life into this song is something more experienced bands are so good at. This song screams of the true potential of this band and this songwriter. I mean, it's still macabre because there's an image to uphold here. But, it works. It's a damn fine country song.

"Drinking Sad" also completely shows what IV can do should he decide to fully embrace the country side of him at some point. Clever wordplay and a crackerjack band take the song to another level. These are songs that deserve more attention than they may receive as people overlook them for the more unique, darker representations of IV's music. Which leads us to the last two songs of the album. 

"Son of Sin" was the first song I heard when IV started making the rounds last year. I was worried this song was going to be the kind of reductive album we were going to get. Now, I say that and it sounds bad. BUT, I like the song and I like the song particularly with the rest of the album. I just felt like it was completely what you'd expect from Hank 3's son. But, this song is high octane and the country tinge to it is fun. It adds flair that completely takes this song to the next level. Which leads us to "Filth." This is the kind of song that I do appreciate more for the music than the lyrics. I could take or leave the lyrics, but the music is fun and it's another version of the high octane country-ish rock music that can be expected of the 3/IV crew. But, the last minute of this song reaches another Doom/Stoner Metal plateau and damn does the band deliver. It starts to make sense how the band can tour with Eyehategod.

There's a lot more that can be said for this album and I think many people will have PLENTY of things to say about it and the lineage. I've probably said too much already. But, listen for yourself. See what you think. Give IV the chance he deserves. He and his band are a strange bunch for sure, but what else would you expect?

Southern Circus is available everywhere today.

Jan 6, 2022

Matthew's Top 10 Albums of 2021

These were counted in our year-end list.

By Matthew Martin

1- Morgan Wade- Reckless

There's not much to say about this album that hasn't been screamed from the rooftops already. Morgan Wade is an exceptional talent writing catchy songs. The production on this album is top notch and the band matches the energy on each song. The future is bright for Morgan Wade and if you aren't on the bandwagon, hurry up and hop on. Top Song: Wilder Days

2- Sturgill Simpson- The Dood and Juanita

When Sturgill goes country, Sturgill is at his very best. When Sturgill creates an album using Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger as a template, you know you're in for something seriously good. And, Sturgill doesn't disappoint. The album explores all different aspects of mountain music while telling a compelling story throughout the album. If this is, in fact, Sturgill's final album, it's a hell of note to go out on. Top Song: Shamrock or Ol Dood (Part I)

3- James McMurtry - The Horses & The Hounds

There isn't an artist out there who has gotten better with age more than James McMurtry. I truly believe that. No other artist has let their music and lyrical content match the lessons they have learned over their long lives the way McMurtry has. On what might be his best album, McMurtry gave up a good bit of the guitar playing to focus on the singing and it works. I miss the jangle of McMurtry's guitar at times, but his band more than makes up for it. Top Song: Canola Fields

4- Sierra Ferrell- Long Time Coming

No album surprised me more than this one. Sierra Ferrell knocked me off my feet with this grand slam of an album focused on old time country music. This is Appalachian music at it's best. The music and band are impeccable but Ferrell's voice matches and surpasses each. She is going to be a long time in this music business and look forward to seeing how to progresses moving forward. Top Song: West Virginia Waltz

5- Charles Wesley Godwin- How The Mighty Fall

By far my most anticipated album of the year was CWG's follow up to his debut album, Seneca. And he fully delivered. The band CWG compiled for this album made the perfect backdrop for these beautiful and tragic tales on this album. From the scratchy fiddle to the roaring guitar solos, this album is not to be missed. CWG also has some of his best work to date on this album and I believe there is no place to go but up for this talent. Top Song: Jesse

6- John R Miller- Depreciated

I had never heard of JRM, but this album changed that and for good reason. The lyrics are reminiscent of John Prine. The voice is reminiscent of Jay Farrar. What more could you ask for? Top Song: Shenenandoah Shakedown

7- Joshua Ray Walker- See You Next Time

For the final installment of Joshua Ray Walker's trilogy, JRW uses all the influences he has to create a distinct album that only he could pull off effectively. And you can't convince me that anyone right now has a better voice than JRW. Top Song: Flash Paper

8- Drayton Farley- A Hard Up Life

Seems like the last couple of years have been big for country music that is simple, direct, and cutting. From Tyler Childers to Zach Bryan, it's been a recipe for success and Drayton Farley is following that recipe to the same effect. This album is effective and devastating. I can't wait to see what this guy can do with a full band behind him. Top Song: Pitchin' Fits

9- Ottoman Turks- II

The boys for Dallas have done it again. They have created an album that is as much The Stooges as it is Dwight Yoakam. More people should know Ottoman Turks. If you don't know them, get to know them. Top Song: 35 to Life

10- Bo Burnham- Inside

Not a usual album for these lists here, but I can't help it. This album was incredible. You can watch the special on Netflix and it's great, but the music is what makes this. The album works just as effectively. I know there are a lot of albums that feel very appropriate to the times we are in- the mental anguish, the nerviness, the isolation- but there is none that is more effective at parsing out those feeling than this one. Truly an album for our times. Top Song: All Eyes On Me

Nov 5, 2021

Album Review / Charles Wesley Godwin / How The Mighty Fall

By Matthew Martin

Once you've heard Charles Wesley Godwin's voice, it's hard to forget. It's immediately recognizable and it carries a weight unlike many of his contemporaries. When I first heard CWG's debut album, Seneca, I was immediately hooked. The album was rich with Appalachian music and storytelling. Godwin's voice singing about coal and mining mishaps felt intimate to him and his background as a West Virginian. I saw him numerous times over the years when he would come to DC. I would tell as many friends as I could about him. These friends were usually also hooked at first listen. Needless to say, I needed more and more and it felt like the new album was going to never come soon enough.

Now, 2 years after his debut, we are getting that follow up, How The Mighty Fall. And let me tell you, it was well worth the wait. On CWG's sophomore effort, we get everything we loved about that debut but amped up. We get an album that only CWG could make for the times. Songs filled with death, love, and hope but with that Appalachian spin. 

The album opens up with a soft, mountain tune about traveling and constantly being on the move. When the fiddle begins, you know this is not the same style of country music you may get out of OK or TX, or TN for that matter. This is Mountain music. This is real Appalachian music. The scratch of the fiddle is an incredible sound that evokes so much emotion. I really appreciate the touch of that fiddle throughout the album. We then get a strong set of songs that includes the lost-love masterpiece, “Jesse.” CWG can make a mountain out of a mole hill. And this song is proof of such. Taking a graffiti covered bridge and turning that on its head to lament lost love and thusly turning a blind eye to that lost love. This is my favorite song on the album. 

The album never lets up from there. The two most surprising songs I found on the album were "Needle Fall Down" and "Cranes of Potter" showing off CWG's ability to craft a beautiful song around tragic topics. "Needle Fall Down" depicts a man at the end of his rope reflecting on the song playing before taking his life. Then we get "Cranes of Potter" about a mad man killing the woman he loved. They are stunningly beautiful songs only made more painful and striking by CWG's powerful voice. It's possible someone with a lesser voice would not be able to pull off "Needle Fall Down" but CWG does so deftly and with grace. 

But, don't be fooled into thinking this is a low-key affair. CWG also has a crackerjack band on this release and they let loose for a few songs that absolutely make me pine to see these songs live (when I'm going back to shows since I have a dang 2 month old now y'all!). "Gas Well,” "Blood Feud,” and "Strong" are blood pumpers. Also, bonus points if you knew who Prefontaine was (I did not...). Again with "Strong" we get that scratched fiddle that sounds like it was made for CWG songs. The lead guitar licks on this one are compelling as well. 

This is the album I was waiting for from CWG. I don't know that he could have followed up his debut with a stronger album. I know this dude is going to be huge. He's got the songwriting chops, the voice, and the backing band to really make a name for himself and he's well on the way to doing so. If you aren't on the bandwagon, hurry up and hop on. Go ahead and buy this album and everything CWG touches. It's all proving to be gold.

How The Mighty Fall is available today everywhere you purchase or stream music.

Apr 9, 2021

Album Review / Dallas Moore / The Rain

By Matthew Martin

There's something comforting about hard hitting country music. It feels like comfort. It feels like the songs are oddly specific to you or about you. Maybe I'm just projecting but, for me that's how it feels. It reminds me of home, of hearing someone like Hank Jr. or Marshall Tucker Band blasting from the pick-up trucks of either my high school or my Granddad's farm. Dallas Moore picks up the reigns from those 80s/90s artists who so deftly mixed honky-tonk country with just enough rock and roll to get the blood pumping.

Dallas Moore's lyrical abilities are on display on The Rain. Sure there are the same old country tropes of drinking and having a good time, but this album is so specific to this time and place we are in that it really feels brand new. On the title track, Moore uses water and rain to signify rebirth and starting over. It's a hell of a catchy tune and sets the tone of the rest of the album. It feels like after the year we've all had, a rebirth is necessary. We're going to return to normal hopefully very soon and it's going to really be something else. 

Where I think Moore's songwriting prowess truly shines are on the back to back songs "Better Days" and "Locked Down and Loaded." "Better Days" shines a light on the rather interesting people that we all have in our lives- the doom and gloom people, the conspiracy theorists, and the eternal optimists. Moore stares down these folks and recognizes there's room in the middle and there's always reason to keep pushing forward. Again, it feels like this song comes from a place of longing to be back to normal after the past year. This rolls into the next song, "Locked Down and Loaded." This is probably my favorite song on this album. The anxiety and fear of the unknown are all over the song. Not knowing exactly what is happening and the constant change in tone and medical advice near the beginning of the pandemic really had an effect on everyone. Moore paints his picture of being locked-down in Las Vegas vividly. I can't stop listening to this song.

Moore also sings about not having an exact place in this world, of being a drifter so to speak. I think "California Highway" and "Ain't No Place In The Sun" are songs that Moore uses to celebrate his status of not being part of the in-crowd. These are songs you can't help but believe are going to sound better on a hot, Summer day with the windows down. 

Lastly, on "In My Last Days" Moore really tugs at the heartstrings with a song from the point of view of a man who is on his deathbed and is trying to live out his last days as best he can, telling everyone how he feels and doing things he may have missed out on in the past. It is an incredibly effective song and it's hard to not get a little choked up on this one. We've all lost something or someone in the past year and the song just ties everything together in a beautiful melody of peace and acceptance.

I think the best thing about music is that we can all interpret it in many different ways. Maybe The Rain isn't so much steeped in the pandemic world we live in right now. But, it certainly feels like it to me. And I can't help but feel comforted by that. By knowing that we're all affected in one way or another, but we're all going to figure out a way through because that's just what we do. 

The Rain is available today everywhere you purchase or stream music.

Oct 9, 2020

Album Review / Great Peacock / Forever Worse Better

 By Matthew Martin

On Great Peacock's third outing, Forever Worse Better, they have finally created what they've been looking to create for the past few years. This is revitalized Heartland Rock. The band is tighter on this release. Everything seems to be in sync, making for a hell of an album.

The album is a much more personal effort for Andrew Nelson who has described some of the self-doubt and relationship failures that were the muses for some of the better songs on the album (and the best of GP's career). With songs like, "Heavy Load" and "All I Ever Do" there is a clear growth in songwriting both lyrically and musically. It takes a lot to be able to put to words the emotions that come with those feelings and relationships that just always seem to be pulling us down. 

But nowhere on the album is the clear growth of Great Peacock more evident as "High Wind." This is the standout song on the album for me, and quite frankly, I think this is the best song of their catalog (subject to change). From the opening kickstart of the drums to the chugging of the guitars, musically this song is a barnburner. I hear it and immediately feel like I'm hearing my favorite Petty song but not a cheap imitation. And the lyrics are a perfect encapsulation of the album. On this singular song, Andrew laments not only his aging but also his relationship problems. But, there's hope in the song. You know we all have these problems, but the most important part is doing the most while you can. Live it up. In these weird, covid fever dream times, it's a song that feels so pertinent.

The album is full of these songs- "Rock of Ages" and "Learning to Say Goodbye" are beautiful, meaningful, and triumphant. These songs are a testament to the band and their ability to have taken these songs out on the road and truly fine-tune their sound. The soft songs are sonically textured in a great way. The rockers are there. And, the intertwining of Andrew and Blount Floyd's guitars and voices is something to behold. Frank Keith's basslines are tight and keep everything together. This is a group hitting their stride, finding their voice as a band, and hopefully they have a lot more left in them.

Go buy the album and support Great Peacock any way you can.


Forever Worse Better is available today on Bandcamp, Amazon Music, etc. 

Jul 9, 2020

Album Review / Joshua Ray Walker / Glad You Made It

By Matthew Martin

We all have those things that bring us comfort. When we are feeling a little out of sorts or we are at a crossroads of any kind, we know exactly what to reach for to bring us a little joy or a little comfort at our most insecure moments. For me, as is the case for many people, that comfort has always been music. The kind I tend to gravitate towards when I'm feeling unsure of my reality usually is played in a minor key. But, whether or not it's in a minor key, I want the lyrics to hit home for me. I want to feel like I've been in the songwriter's position before, or know someone who has, or might be on track to be there at some point. I want to feel it.

Joshua Ray Walker has a knack for this type of song. He has a way with words that I can't get enough of. There's humor, sadness, and a sense of joy in his music- sometimes in the same song. On his last album, Wish You Were Here, it felt like lightning in a bottle. Starting off an album with a song as good as "Canyon" seems criminal. To come out of seemingly nowhere and be that devastating in a song had me hooked and wanting more. I devoured that album and became a big, big fan of Joshua Ray Walker's. I did not want to have to wait the typical 2 or so years to have to hear new music from Walker. And thank god I didn't have to wait that long. 

Released a year and a half later, Joshua Ray Walker's Glad You Made It picks up right where his last album left off. These songs stand up right up there with the best of his debut. Those characters are still deeply flawed, deeply unapologetic, and deeply vibrant. They are covering up scars and bruises, They are wondering how the hell they got where they are. But, again, most of all, they are trying to stay alive, like REALLY ALIVE, for one more night.

One thing that stuck out to me about this album is that it is definitely a more rocking, honky-tonking affair, e.g. "User". This album feels like a twisted 70s Capricorn Records cousin (for those that don't know, Capricorn was home to The Dixie Dregs, Marshall Tucker Band, and The Allman Brothers). The cast of musicians playing on this album very clearly were having a fun time. It shows in every song. From the organ-laced rocker of "D.B. Cooper" to the nearly bluegrass "Play You A Song" every song is loose and perfect sounding. The notes intertwine with Walker's interesting, unique twang. Speaking of his twang, I'm not sure there's a voice as unique as Walker's, complete with his falsetto notes and yodeling. And, I absolutely love it.

Where Walker really shines is when he slows it down to explore some demons- whether or not they're his own is not all that explicit. On "Voices" Walker explores lost love, hurt, and deep depression, even pondering his own death. It's an affecting song. It's dark. But, it's incredible. It's required listening. Yeah, it's sad, but music is supposed to make you feel. It's supposed to make you confront some of those demons you've been neglecting so you can become a better person. At least, that's what I like about music. Then there's "Boat Show Girl" which has that humor that I mentioned earlier, with the imagery of a "redneck Statue of Liberty." This is a character study that Jonny Corndawg/Fritz would be proud of. 

I can't wait until we can see live music again, because I know these songs are going to be absolute killers live. This album is going to be in deep, deep rotation for me. It should be for you. Go buy this album and Walker's first album. You won't regret it.

Glad You Made It is available Friday everywhere.

Oct 25, 2019

Album Review / Ottoman Turks (s/t)

By Matthew Martin

Ever wondered what it would sound like if Iggy Pop and the Stooges had been born south of the Mason-Dixon line?  Well, look no further than Fort Worth, Texas's Ottoman Turks.  With a sound as much garage rock as it is country, this seems like that kind of band that could win over the staunchest of Dads who don't "get" their kids' taste in music.  From the apathetic Southern drawl to the snaking slide guitar and driving drum beats, this is definitely music for Saturday nights.

The Ottoman Turks first came to my attention due to some posts by their guitarist who happens to be the incomparable Joshua Ray Walker.  The band had been playing on and off together for the last few years but due to a few conflicting schedules never really did anything more than play a few shows whenever they got back together.  However, in the last year or so they decided to finally get this album out there.  And for that, I couldn't be happier.

The album starts with the perfectly named and played, "Apathy."  With the slide guitar slinking around the whole song, it's hard not to feel entranced.  It's the kind of song you want to open up a beer and just let it wash over you.  The album then breaks into my personal favorites- "Snake Song" and "Glass Bottles."  These are perfect encapsulations of the Ottoman Turks.  You can hear the party in the songs and you can hear the slight danger.  But, you can also sense that note of that sadness that makes country music so endearing and relatable.  

Then there's the almost pure garage rock "OCP."  A song about fighting.  A song definitely more at home on Funhouse than Ol Waylon but feels so uniquely Ottoman Turks.  This song even has a pretty sweet drum solo.  What's not to love?!  Seriously, the last half of this album is one long party.  It's worth the price of admission.

The whole album more or less bleeds into each other almost feeling like one long live set. It's a production technique that I am quite fond of. For a band with one album, I feel they have pretty distinct sound.  If I were to turn on the radio and hear more garage rock country, I'd immediately assume it was Ottoman Turks.  I can only guess what these songs would sound like live.  I imagine the smell of sweat, booze, and cigarettes.  I imagine dancing and all around rowdiness.  But, most of all, I imagine an awesome time.  I hope these dudes make it up to D.C. sometime.  And, if you live in the Fort Worth area, you oughta go see em.  Until then, go get the album and crank that shit up loud.

Ottoman Turks is available on Amazon, Apple Music, etc.

Aug 19, 2019

Album Review / Tyler Childers / Country Squire

By Matthew Martin

A few months ago, Tyler Childers released the first single ("House Fire") from his upcoming album Country Squire along with the trippy cover art.  It was perfect, in my mind.  I loved everything about the song- from the simple, understated start to the whirring, fuzzed-out ending.  I knew this was going to be an album every bit as good as his previous album (Purgatory). 

But then I heard the next single- "All Your’n”- and my excitement dipped a bit.  It seemed decidedly not Tyler Childers.  I wasn't sure what to think of the upcoming album after that song.  Here we have a raucous first single with some crazy artwork followed by a nice, but not all that exciting follow-up single.  But, I was hoping that my instincts were wrong; that it would all make sense in the context of the album.  I mean, Sturgill was a producer for the album and he's got a pretty good track record.  

Then the album came out.  And, let me tell you something, it's everything I wanted from a Tyler Childer release.  It's fiery.  It's full of innuendo.  It's sweet.  It's 100% pure-Tyler Childers.  The difference we have here is that he's taken on a bit of that Sturgill-like tendency to make a compelling, complete song-cycle.  While not every song is thematically related, the songs are all tethered together with no real beginning or end to each; only the fade out into the next song.  

While it is one cohesive album, there are clear standouts to me on this album.  "Country Squire," "Bus Route," "Gemini," and "House Fire" being my favorites as of right now.  "Bus Route" takes me back to my days growing up in rural Tennessee where I also had a bus driver who didn't put up with shit (Mr. Morris was scarier than hell).  "House Fire" has gotten a little backlash because of the mix, but I think the mix is just about damn perfect.  The only time I think his voice fades a bit is in the second half of the song when all of the instruments are all blending and weaving in and out of each other.  I think of his voice as an extension of the instruments and it works incredibly well.  My wife, after listening to "House Fire" for the second or third time looked at me and said, "This song feels like it's always been around."  That's it.  That's the perfect song.  Timeless and new all at once.

Even when you get to "Ever Lovin' Hand" (you know, the song about self-love), you might giggle at the first or second listen, but then you realize that it is actually pretty sweet.  I dunno, maybe I'm just a sucker for a sweet song, but this one got to me.  If you would have told me Tyler Childers would make a song about masturbation that I'd tell you was sweet, I would have laughed in your face.  But, that's the genius in Childers.  He approaches these topics with humility and humor.  He doesn't try to make fun of anything, it seems.  These are things that happen day in and day out, and as they say, ahem, write what you know.  And as for "All Your'n" I dig it now.  It works totally within the album.  I wouldn't change a damn thing about it or the album.  I apologize profusely for doubting this song.  

Last time I saw Tyler Childers, he was in a small venue up here in D.C. called Rock and Roll Hotel.  It holds around 400 folks.  When he comes back in December, he'll be playing at The Anthem.  It holds 6,000 people and it's already sold out (I'm bummed that I missed out on getting tickets to this one...).  Tyler Childers is here and everyone has caught on to his genius.  His new album is a continuation of everything we've grown to love about the Kentucky redhead.  But, there’s also growth.  He tried something new on this album, and damn, it worked.  I'm already dying for more new music.  Go buy everything you can from Childers and go see his incredible band live.  You won't be disappointed.

Aug 16, 2019

Live Review / Ward Davis & Charles Wesley Godwin / Pearl Street Warehouse 8/9/19

By Matthew Martin

To be honest, I had only really just heard of Ward Davis.  I knew that he was a helluva songwriter and was always being lauded by Cody Jinks.  I knew that he was a co-writer of one of my favorite Jinks songs, "I'm Not The Devil."  But, I wasn't really familiar with his music.  But, when I saw that the incredible Charles Wesley Godwin was going to be opening up for him, I knew I was going to go.  Then, they switched up the show and made it a free show.  That made it even better.  So, we got some friends together and went to Pearl Street Warehouse in D.C.'s newly updated Wharf area.  

To start the evening, Ward Davis's bassist (whose name I did not write down and cannot remember for the life of me) started with a few songs.  Here I will admit that I could not hear the songs that well.  The acoustics this evening at Pearl Street Warehouse left much to be desired.  There was an open window in the back which may have resulted in the solo musician being drowned out by the voices inside and outside of the bar.  The songs were fine enough, but I just couldn't hear them well enough to have a strong opinion one way or the other.

Next, Charles Wesley Godwin was up and while the mix was also still a little messed up in the bar, the songs still stood out.  I know I mentioned this before, but I think CWG is special.  I think this debut solo album is special.  I think the stories CWG tells of West Virginia are important for everyone to hear.  We hear country songs about beer, women, and backroads enough.  We don't hear what it's like for real, honest country folks living their lives through the ups and downs of wars and energy industry downturns.  That being said, I did have the advantage to lots of folks (but, not all, for sure) in that I knew most of the songs and was able to make the sounds I couldn't quite hear out in my head.  This was nothing against CWG, mind you.  He sang his heart out, he played his heart out.  It's just the sound at the venue was very much off this night for a solo act.  However, that didn't stop folks from loving what they were hearing.  Some who were talking quite loudly during the first act shut up immediately to try and strain and hear every word coming from the stage.  I found out shortly after that there were a few people who had driven 3 hours to come see CWG open for Ward Davis.  That is special, y'all.  I remember hearing stories like that about American Aquarium.  CWG has struck a chord and his momentum will continue to grow.

Finally, Ward Davis was up.  He's a heavy-hitter.  He's pure country gold.  He's honky tonk.  He's everything I wanted to hear.  He started the night off on his trusty telecaster, slinging out classics like "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" to his collaboration with Cody Jinks "I'm Not The Devil."  His band was tight.  The sound that was plaguing the first two acts didn't quite plague Davis as the band was able to drown out a lot of the chatter and really wash over folks.  Speaking of the band, the guitarist was great.  He hit every note like a seasoned veteran and he looked like he couldn't be a day over 21.  Midway through the set Davis switched over to his piano and played some more introspective tunes which included his songs from his latest EP Asunder.  The sincerity and simplicity with which Davis tells a story is stunning.  The range he has as a musician- storytelling-wise, I mean- is something to behold.  He can throw down shit-kicking boot-stompers or he can lay down beautiful heartbreaking tunes about divorce.  Not to mention, he can cover a song like "Time To Move On" by Tom Petty and make it sound like it's his own song.  He was impressive by all measures.  I was disappointed to know that he only has 1 full album and 1 EP out there.  I want, no need, more music from Ward Davis.  His peers (Jinks, Whitey Morgan) are putting out incredible music at a breakneck pace these days.  He can add to that and bring his own unique sound and style to the table.

As always, if you see these folks coming anywhere near you, go see them.  Go give em a hug.  Go buy anything and everything you can from them.  They are making music that deserves to be heard and they deserve every ounce of success they get from their hard work.  

(Not from the Pearl Street Warehouse show)

Apr 29, 2019

Album Review / Caroline Spence / Mint Condition

By Matthew Martin

I remember the first time I heard Caroline Spence.  She was opening for John Moreland at Jammin' Java in Vienna, VA.  I was expecting to be blown away by Moreland, but was yet again extremely happy I got there for the opener.  Caroline Spence opened and completely blew me away.  I left feeling gut-punched, not only by Moreland, but by Spence.  She sang incredible songs with a wonderful, strong voice.

On Spence's latest album, Mint Condition, she continues her strong streak of albums.  There are songs for every mood and occasion, but one thing remains constant; Spence's perfect songwriting ability.  The production on the album is also great.  It allows Spence's voice and lyrics to be the star of the show.  There isn't much flair in terms of added instruments or needless solos.  Sure, they're there, but they add flavor rather than a distraction.

As for the songs themselves, I think these are some of Spence's greatest.  She deals with trying to get out of town to turn your life around ("Angels or Los Angeles").  Or, she sings about the insecurity that comes with relationships and growing up ("Who Are You" and "Song About A City").  My favorite song on the album, "Sit Here and Love Me,” is at once crushing and beautiful.  This perfect song about dealing with depression and the need to just have a loving ear and it caught my attention immediately; I continue to go back to it more and more.  Sometimes the solution to any problem is to just love and be loved.  It's beautiful and I hope if nothing else, you listen to this song intently.

Spence can also write a damn good, clever line with the best of em.  On the great "Who's Gonna Make My Mistakes" Spence muses, "Talking to this man is like looking at an ashtray, something was there but there ain't much left..."  Lines like that are strewn throughout the album here and there.  You gotta pay attention and with Spence's voice, that isn't hard to do.  She demands attention.  She deserves your attention.  Come for the voice, stay for the songwriting.

The album finishes with the title track, "Mint Condition."  This song is a great representation of all that is Caroline Spence.  At once beautiful, clever, and graceful, the song is a perfect way to end the album.  Spence can write the hell out of a love song.

I think Spence is one of the songwriters we don't hear nearly enough about.  She consistently puts out great albums and this album is no different.  Go buy it.  You won't be disappointed.  Go see her when she comes near your town.  She's worth every damn cent.  I know I can't wait til she comes to D.C. so I can hear these brand new songs live.


Mint Condition is available Friday.

Mar 26, 2019

Live Review / Charles Wesley Godwin / The Vinyl Lounge / 3/14/19

By Matthew Martin

West Virginia ends up being the butt of a lot of jokes. There's poverty.  There's wide-reported drug abuse.  And there's a sense of this almost pride that you're NOT from West Virginia.  But, on the other side of that coin are the people from West Virginia.  If you actually meet folks from West Virginia, they're nothing like those silly caricatures you read/hear/joke about.  They're proud.  They're proud of what the state stood for during the Civil War. They're proud of what the state provided to the country with the mining industry.  They're proud of the unions that began in that same mining industry.  And over the years some of the best Appalachian music has come out of those hills and hollers.

Charles Wesley Godwin is someone I believe will become a household name very soon.  There's nothing but authenticity dripping from every word and chord that pours out of him.  And he has the voice to carry these sincere, heartfelt songs of growing up in West Virginia.  Songs that are so specific to the Appalachian region that you almost feel you're there as you listen to him sing.  This all comes through on his fantastic debut album Seneca.  I was pleased to find out that in a stripped-down, solo live show, nothing was lost.

We went to see Charles at The Vinyl Lounge which is part of the Gypsy Sally's venue in D.C.  We had once seen Sturgill Simpson play solo at this place to about 50 people.  So, this felt similar- like I needed to see Charles Wesley Godwin before he started making it to venues where the crowds were growing.  He began the show around 10PM.  

The first couple of songs were new songs as far as I was concerned ("Jesse" and "Bones").  I don't believe they were from his previous band, either.  These songs were incredibly well-written and true to CWG's young, but quite impressive career.  CWG would then go on to play a great mix of songs from his debut album ("Coal Country", "Strawberry Queen", and "Shrinks and Pills") as well as songs from his previous band's (Union Sound Treaty) output ("Peaked" and "Hazelton").  He threw in a couple of covers as well from folks like Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Martin.

CWG played for those of us there for around an hour and a half.  It was an intimate affair and one that I am incredibly glad I got to witness.  The songs of CWG are smart and emotional.  West Virginia pride is rich in the tradition of the songs.  He wants you to know that WV is still here.  With songs like "Here In Eden" he calls his WV brothers to arms.  You get the idea that CWG would never apologize for where he's from.  And, that's what makes his songs so relatable and so damn irresistible.  We all want that sense of pride of our home.  CWG has it damn spades.

To drive this point home, CWG pulled a barstool out from the bar for his last song.  He stepped away from his mic.  He unplugged his guitar.  And he sang with all of his heart and soul the WV standard: "Country Roads".  We all sang along.  We felt connected.  And, we walked away from the show feeling like we'd just watched something pretty special.

If you are anywhere near CWG, go see him.  It is special.  He's building something.  He will be someone we all will say we remember when he was still building that something.  Until he comes to your place, go buy his music; his solo album and his previous band's album.  You won't be disappointed. 


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