New UK Dates in summer..

With a new album to be recorded in summer Matthews Southern Comfort will return to the UK for a brief tour..
July 31st: Putney, London – Half Moon
August 1st: Nr. Fareham, Hampshire – Wickham Festival
August 2nd: Hailsham, East Sussex – Hailsham Pavilion

pic by Gerrie Barneveld

Review in German.. for

1969 stieg Iain Matthews bei FAIRPORT CONVENTION aus, nur um 1970 mit seinen Ex-Kollegen das MATTHEWS SOUTHERN COMFORT-Album einzuspielen. Zur Band wurde das MSC-Projekt nach einer Umbesetzung, die im gleichen Jahr zwei weitere Alben einspielte. MATTHEWS SOUTHERN COMFORT gelang das Kunststück, die erfolgreichste Version der „Woodstock“-Hymne einzuspielen. Dies trotz der starken Konkurrenz durch die Komponistin und Originalinterpretin Joni Mitchell sowie die raue Crosby, Stills & Nash-Variante, die fast gleichzeitig veröffentlicht wurde.

Es folgten weitere Umbesetzungen, Matthews ging auf Solopfaden fremd, gründete 1972 PLAINSONG, nahm weiter Soloalben auf, verschwand ganz aus dem Musikbusiness, kehrte zurück und entschied sich irgendwann im neuen Millennium MATTHEWS SOUTHERN COMFORT in erheblich verjüngter (und niederländisch geprägter) Besetzung wiederzubeleben. Das führte 2010/11 zu der Veröffentlichung „Kind Of Love“, später ergänzt um die Live Einspielung „Kind Of Live“. Eine siebenjährige Veröffentlichungspause folgte, die 2018 mit „Like A Radio“ ihr Ende fand. Matthews ist halt ein unsteter Geist und immer für Überraschungen gut.

Musikalisch nicht unbedingt, was im vorliegenden Fall aber kein Manko ist. Denn „Like A Radio“ ist ein wohl austariertes Werk, das äußerst gefühlvoll und lässig seine Bahnen zwischen Folk, Americana, Softrock und ein wenig Jazz zieht. Matthews singt auch mit 71 noch, als hätte er nichts als Honig und Balsam gefrühstückt, seine Band agiert mit geradezu schlafwandlerischer Sicherheit. Die Melodien sind von genussreicher Schönheit, die Refrains besitzen eine fast beiläufige Einprägsamkeit, die ihnen einen hohen Wiedererkennungswert garantiert, sie aber nicht mit Penetranz in Gehörgänge und Bewusstsein hämmert.

Die Instrumentierung ist erlesen und vielfältig, doch nicht überladen. Das klingt nie angestrengt, ist bei den akustischen Gitarren farbenfroh und präsent und beim Einsatz der elektrischen ohne jede Kraftmeierei. Gitarrist Bart Jan Baartmans spielt zudem Mandoline, Sitar, Banjo und weitere Saiteninstrumente, die für höchst abwechslungsreiche Klänge sorgen. Die Rhythmussektion agiert ebenfalls breitgefächert und sorgt für ein feingewebtes Grundgerüst. Zieht dabei elegante Zurückhaltung stupidem Drauflosprügeln vor. Akustisches- und E-Piano sind für die leicht jazzige Note zuständig und setzen Höhepunkte nicht nur während der ersten beiden Stücke.

Obwohl düstere Thematiken angeschnitten werden, „Thought Police“ oder „Welcome To The Age Of Isolation“, strahlt „Like A Radio“ eine unheimliche Wärme aus. Liegt an Matthews warmer raumfüllender Stimme, dem gekonnten Satzgesang, und der Fähigkeit der Band dem Einfachen Komplexität zu entlocken, kurz Folk-Rock, der sich aus Erfahrung speist und gelebter Musik. MATTHEWS SOUTHERN COMFORT agieren auf Augenhöhe mit musikalischen Verwandten June Tabor, Christy Moore, Luka Bloom oder Van Morrison. Ausnahme ist lediglich das besonders im Refrain schlicht gestrickte „To Love“ (hat instrumental allerdings ein paar coole Passagen. Peter Frampton in der Nähe?). Davon abgesehen kann es sich die Band sogar leisten, einen der stärksten Songs des Albums als Abschluss der Bonus-Sektion zu bringen.

FAZIT: MATTHEWS SOUTHERN COMFORT brillieren 2018 mit der Kunst, eindringliche Songs mit einer ungeheuer lässigen, aber nie unambitionierten, Selbstverständlichkeit einzuspielen. Die düsteren Themen strafen den „Woodstock-Mythos“ Lügen, die Musik lässt hingegen ahnen, was sich in den letzten Jahren verändert hat und was erhaltenswert erscheint.Jochen König (Info)

Book review Northern Sky

Thro’ My Eyes: A Memoir – Iain Matthews 

Star rating: 4****

Thro’ My Eyes

I picked up Iain Matthews’ autobiography during the break between two sets at an intimate Matthews’ Southern Comfort gig in an unassuming Pontefract pub, having just witnessed a rather fine opening set from the vantage point of a front row seat. I don’t think I had any intention of buying this book or any book for that matter, having far too many piled up on the arm of my sofa at home awaiting attention, yet there was something that drew me to this book. Perhaps it was due to the fact that both Iain Matthews and his ghost writer/helper Ian Clayton were present at the pub on this particular night; it could have had something to do with the sudden realisation half way through the band’s opening set that I knew little about its subject, other than the fact that he was in an early incarnation of Fairport Convention, that his was the first voice to be heard on the band’s torchlight song Meet on the Ledge, that his next band had a smash hit with Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock, that his other band Plainsong appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test one evening just as I was preparing books for school the next morning. Added to these hazy recollections was the memory of seeing a later incarnation of Matthews’ Southern Comfort more recently at a winter festival in Skeggy of all places and that I actually got to speak to him backstage for a good half hour. What else did I need to know? Well lots apparently.

The title of Thro’ My Eyes is taken from an early song on Iain’s debut solo record If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes, the LP with the swirling Vertigo label that’s currently on the player as I write, and suggests the book’s intention from the start, to explore a life very much lived from the author’s personal perspective. It’s pretty much a warts and all memoir, which takes us on a journey from an early Northern childhood in both Scunthorpe and Barton-upon-Humber, through to the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus and Carnaby Street in the ‘Swinging Sixties’, and on through his earliest involvement in music, to his middle years in the States and more recently that of mainland Europe. One or two loose ends are neatly tied up for us, such as the question of the McDonald/Matthews, Ian/Iain confusion, which is all explained here and is notably far less pretentious than initially imagined.

Though the story takes us from one exciting episode to another, where we see evidence of Iain’s brushes with a veritable list of high profile musicians (Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Richard Thompson, Eric Taylor), there’s also an inherent sadness that looms in the shadows, occasionally present on the songwriter’s furrowed brow in some of the pictures included and sometimes in the words of his songs. Songs are an important part of Iain Matthews’ story and each chapter here is prefaced by lyrics from his prolific back catalogue. If like me, you have the rare ability to multi-task and are not particularly fazed by listening to music as you read, having a handful of Iain’s records by the player can be useful.   

Iain can be candid in his revelations and refuses to shy away from his own insecurities, his open confessions of possible family neglect whilst in search of his own muse, his disappointments, his distrust in others, his episodic relationships and his mistakes and miscalculations along the way. This is an honourable quality throughout the book although occasionally you want to shake him. Through the decades though, we see a singular artistic bent and a desire to make good music and write great songs, both alone and in the company of others, a pursuit that continues to this day and that will no doubt go on until mortality becomes a tangible issue.

Allan Wilkinson

Northern Sky

Review on MSC concert in Robin2 in Bilston UK.

Matthews Southern Comfort did a show with Magna Carta in the Robin2 on October 30th. For the full review visit: Midlandmania.wordpress

“…More to the point, his shimmering alto vocals have remained undimmed by the passing of the years: the only slight change is in the addition of an oak-aged gravitas and venom (especially on newer, more lyrically bitter compositions like Bits And Pieces or Age Of Isolation) that was sometimes absent from his earlier work, and it’s no bad thing. Moreover, in structuring the set so that new songs rub shoulders with old classics like And Me (Say A Prayer), Darcy Farrow or Mimi & Richard Farina’s Blood Red Roses, Matthews- these days a Dutch resident, surrounded by an entirely Dutch lineup who undoubtedly bring a flavour of that country’s ownpop heritage to the group’s already potent blend of English folk and Americana- deftly highlights the continuity between both eras, thus also drawing attention to their finest elements….”

“…Of course, even back in ‘69, MSC were never a one-man show: indeed, by way of demonstration that this is and has always been a band (with, might I add, six fine studio albums in total under its belt) and even within the group itself, the emphasis (though its past should never be ignored) is very much on presenting the band as it exists now, both as composers and interpreters of others’ material (a balance Matthews has repeatedly favoured since the 60s) Thusly, acoustic six-stringer Eric Devries- in addition to his contributions to the ensemble’s already exceptional four-part harmonies – also asserts himself with a fine lead vocal on Mare, Take Me Home: meanwhile, electric guitarist/mandolinist/ all-rounder Bart Baartmans (leave your tedious Simpsons jokes at the door please) is a revelation, letting rip with several tasteful solos throughout that call to mind both his fellow countryman Chris Koerts (Earth & Fire) and a more restrained version of Matthews’ former bandmate Richard Thompson….”

“…Sadly, there’s nothing in the set tonight from the original band’s much-underrated eponymous third album, but further “golden greats” surface late on in the shape of To Love and (obviously) Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock, the sole UK no 1 hit ever enjoyed by any former Fairport Convention member (now there’s a top music quiz trivia fact for you) Recognised as radically different from its creator’s original version even at the time of its release, it’s since been reworked yet again, its new vocal refrain and tempo showcasing yet another unexpected development in the fascinating history of this most iconic “hippie dream” composition: if anything, it actually now resembles its writer’s Miles Of Aisles version more than anything else, albeit with the funky backbeat replaced by the thrumming piano and Rhodes sounds of keyboardist Bart De Win. Yet another concealed weapon in the band’s already resplendent armoury, he also excels on further newies Like A Radio and (by way of unexpected encore) Crystals On The Glass: so much so, in fact, it almost seems a shame to cut him off in his prime….”

Forever destined to remain two of this country’s best-kept insider secrets, both Matthews and Simpson are gracefully gliding through their 70s with all the poise and invention of the true artists they are: though outwardly different, both are capable of stealing the listener away from the mundanity of everyday life and into a mystical fireside land of song, and for my own part, I’m overjoyed that glad this gig- allegedly cancelled and rebooked about five times- finally went ahead. And, from the 300-plus turnout tonight, it would seem the West Midlands’ folk-rock fanbase in general shares my enthusiasm. Verily and indeed, and with a hey nonny nonny tooralay.

By Darius Drewe