Op het album “The New Mine” vinden we opnieuw meerdere pareltjes terug waarvan we vooral de songs “The Hands Of Time”, eerste single “Feed It” (zie video), “C’mon Amigo”, “A Secret Is Gone”, het lekker swingende “Inbetween” en de retrospectieve slotballad “In My Next Life” ter beluistering willen aanbevelen. read more on Review Page
New single out now! Here’s the clip..
Matthews Southern Comfort – The New Mine
Released: 27th March 2020
Iain Matthews is probably the finest British exponent of the ‘Americana’ musical genre. Ever since his departure from Fairport Convention in 1969, it is an avenue that he has explored to great effect if, perhaps, only sporadically achieving the success and recognition that his talent and perseverance so richly deserves. Of course, from the early 1970s until the dawn of the current millennium, Iain was based in the US, where he was able to hone his songwriting and interpretational skills, catching the attention of such influential figure as Michael Nesmith and The Eagles.
Those readers familiar with the name Matthews Southern Comfort will no doubt recall that the band’s most high-profile moment occurred when they occupied the Number One position in the UK singles chart for a period of 3 weeks in October 1970 with their version of Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock. Although fairly typical of the band’s country-flavoured, pedal-steel driven melodic rock music, Woodstock was by no means the only outstanding example of the band’s repertoire and they were responsible for two excellent albums, Second Spring and Later That Same Year, both released in 1970, and both well worth a listen (neither have aged a day!)
Iain left Matthews Southern Comfort in 1971 and the name of the band lay dormant until it was revived in 2010 when Iain, backed by a group of top-notch Dutch musicians (he relocated from the US to The Netherlands in 2000) released the Kind Of New album under the old name. The New Mine is the fourth Matthews Southern Comfort album since the name was revived and Iain has enlisted the services of Bart Jan Baartmans (acoustic, electric and resonator guitars, mandolin, sitar, bass and banjo), Bart de Win (acoustic and electric pianos, accordion and backing vocals) and Eric De Vries (acoustic guitar and vocals) to deliver an album which expertly and entertainingly travels the path from British Folk Rock to full-blown Americana.
The choice of musicians and instruments is inspired. The band gel perfectly together, both in the construction and delivery of the songs and in the compositional collaborations that dominate the album. Compositional credits cover several combinations of the band’s personnel, with Iain Matthews linking with each in turn to produce some excellent songs. Notable amongst these collaborations are C’mon Amigo, a song by Iain and Eric which contains some marvellous vocal harmonies and would be worthy of inclusion on any Eagles album; The Hole is a Matthews/de Win effort that makes scary references to the destruction of the ozone layer and its growing consequences for the planet and In My Next Life, composed by Bart Jan Baartmans and Iain, offers shrewd philosophical tips to anyone fortunate enough to relive their life applying the experiences that they have gathered.
The album opens with a version of the Joni Mitchell song, “Ethiopia” (from her 1985 Dog Eat Dog album). This is, perhaps, appropriate, given the long association in the minds of many people between Joni and Matthews Southern Comfort. The version on this album is sublime with sprinklings of piano and some tasteful guitar work which both set the tone for the musical treats to come. Sadly, the subject matter of the song – the plight of the people in the African deserts and the indifference of the West, remains as current as it was when the song was written, which provides all the justification necessary for reviving the song.
Of Iain’s solo compositions, my highlight is Starvation Box; a story of an itinerant musician which builds excitingly and which contains some wonderful slide guitar work.
Some may question the relevance of crediting this, albeit tremendous, album to Matthews Southern Comfort; after all, the only constant thread between the outfit that operated in the early 1970s and the band on The New Mine is Iain Matthews. I would, however, strongly challenge this view. The personnel may be different but the sound and intent of the band pick up precisely where the original band left off, even to the extent that Gordon Huntley’s missing pedal steel licks that were so much a feature of the 1970 incarnation are precisely replicated by Bart Jan Baartman’s guitar. Happily, also, Iain’s melodic voice is not only as good as ever, it is enhanced by the vocal support of Bart de Win and Eric De Vries. The New Mine is very definitely a Matthews Southern Comfort masterpiece.
Matthews Southern Comfort will be appearing at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention during the afternoon of Saturday 15 August. I, for one, can’t wait!
A little history: I had lost track of Iain Matthews. But Like A Radio was a seismic surprise. And this new The New Mine is a very welcome and melodic aftershock. Both albums groove with carefully arranged and then re-arranged ‘Throwaway Street Puzzle’ pieces of rock, folk, pop, and (a touch of) jazz.
The New Mine begins with a brilliant rendition of Joni Mitchell’s brilliant song, ‘Ethiopia’. The tune oozes concern for humanity. Of course, Matthews Southern Comfort’s first big single years ago was a take on Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’, and the two songs compress the years into very simple plea for a more intelligent, melodic, and vital world. Iain’s voice sings with a deeper pathos than his 70’s recordings, and even touches the raw passion of Bruce Cockburn.
‘The Hands Of Time’ ups the gospel ante and conjures joyous comfort, while confronting a time “when the sleep won’t come”. This song dips into the same spring water as The Band, spring water that flows with a pure and sepia melody.
Now, Robert Palmer had a big hit song with ‘Simply Irresistible’. I think he was singing about a woman. But the same could be said of ‘Feed It’. The tune bulges with a quick melody, a lively lyric, a soulful chorus, and an (almost) 50’s hamburger joint vocal. The songs buzzes with joy, a fluid acoustic guitar solo, and a jazzy piano. Sometimes, even pop music gets to touch the heavens.
And then the album dives into deeper waters. ‘Patty’s Poetry’ has a very catchy chorus and a friendly electric guitar. The title track is bluesy, acoustic, and piano jazzy with a very modern message that seconds the motion of fellow ex-Fairport Richard Thompson’s song that warns, “We’re all working for the Pharaoh”. Then, ‘Starvation Box’ begins with ‘Battle Of Evermore’ Zep thought, but then dissolves into the tale of a Vietnam vet who “won’t go back”. Of course, they nab the guy! And a nice guitar circles the defiance and deep psychology of the song.
A little more of history: Iain sang Fairport’s ‘Meet On The Ledge’. And that song is tattooed on the soul of any British folk-rock lover. ‘Nuff said! The original Matthews Southern Comfort cut three albums of folk music that gave a big wave to west coast Americana music. Then, there was a series of (blessed) solo records, the first two on the (equally blessed) Vertigo label. He moved to Elektra. These albums were tapestries of self-penned and covered songs that, despite their near-perfect beauty, never really sold many copies. He also played in Plainsong with Andy Roberts on guitar and recorded the very great album In Search Of Amelia Earhart. Then countless labels and countless records, including albums with Elliot Murphy and David Surkamp (of Palov’s Dog fame!) proved that Iain, when singing Richard Thompson’s words, did “really mean it” way back in Fairport history.
And, by the way, fans of (the great) Gene Clark and Mason Proffit (of ‘Two Hangmen’ and ‘Eugene Pratt’ fame) will find lots to love in those early solo records.
And now he has resurrected MSC with new members Bart Jan Baartmans, Bart de Win and Eric De Vries in a band that echoes the great sound of Steely Dan or the pop-rock perfection of China Crisis. This album also cuts similar grooves with Nick Lowe’s all over the place Jesus Of Cool (known in America as Pure Pop For Now People). So, this is quite serious rock, folk, pop, and (sort of) jazz stuff.
But, as I often quote Procol Harum, “Still there’ll be more”. ‘C’mon Amigo’ is country acoustic music that hovers in harmonious west coast folk rock beauty, with banjo and accordion breaths. ’The Hole’ slows time and asks the necessary questions about the future of all we hold so dear. The chorus, again, is a melodic exclamation sing-a-long pointed truth that overwhelms cynicism and demands an answer. ‘A Secret Is Gone’ is yet another accordion pulsed tune with urgent psychological plot. If this covers some of the same catchy ethos of the before-mentioned Nick Lowe’s Pure Pop For Now People, it also sings to the Pure Pop People who enjoy good and intelligent rock music.
The final three songs stretch the album to its finish line. ‘The Sacrificial Cow’, again, returns to gospel spring waters, with the nice touch of jazz piano. ‘Inbetween’ rolls with New Orleans flavour, and recalls the easy Big Muddy flow of Bobby Charles’ classic 1972 self-titled album. And then ‘In My Next Life’ is acoustic and confessional soft passion that sits well beside Rick Danko’s take on Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ from The Band’s Moondog Matinee. It’s a really nice final thoughtful groove.
Way back a long time ago, Iain sang his song, ‘Knowing The Game’ on his Journeys From Gospel Oak album that professed, “You may be taken down, you may be written off, it’s knowing how to stay the same, knowing how to play the game”. Sure, the good stuff always “comes around again”, and this is really good stuff, stuff that knows “how to play the game” but it still tent stakes a tough soul “to stay the same”, and then manages, against a lot of odds, to create yet another Iain Matthews album of near-perfect beauty.
Fairport Convention was een van de invloedrijkste Britse folkbands van de jaren zestig en zeventig, en een van de kernleden van de legendarische eerste lichting van die band (waarin onder meer Richard Thompson en Sandy Denny zaten) was Iain Matthews, die daarna zijn eigen band Matthews Southern Comfort oprichtte, waarmee hij één hit had, en daarna de band Plainsong.
Toen Matthews in Nederland kwam te wonen, kreeg hij, na een periode van solo-albums, ook weer het idee om Matthews Southern Comfort opnieuw te beginnen, en dit keer met een geheel Nederlandse band. Dat bleek een gouden zet, want de band heeft nog nooit zo goed geklonken, mede dankzij de voortreffelijke samenzang en de klik die er duidelijk is tussen Iain Matthews en gitarist en producer BJ Baartmans, singer/songwriter Eric DeVries en pianist Bart de Win. Voeg daar ook nog eens de meer dan voortreffelijke drummer Sjoerd van Bommel aan toe en je hebt een moordband. Hun album Like a Radio was dan ook een onverwacht juweeltje.
Er staan op het nieuwe album The New Mine maar twee covers – Ethiopia van Joni Mitchell en Working in the New Mine van E. Snodderly, de andere tien nummers heeft Matthews samen met de andere bandleden geschreven. En eerlijk gezegd zijn die nummers minstens zo goed als de covers. Ik ben nog steeds niet helemaal van mijn verbazing bekomen, maar de herrezen Brits-Nederlandse Matthews Southern Comfort is echt een sublieme folkrock-band, en dit is een subliem plaatje!
Matthews Southern Comfort will appear at Grenswerk in Venlo for an album release show. The new album ‘The New Mine’ will be available on March 27th. The release show will be on March 26th in Poppodium Grenswerk..