Review in German.. for www.Musikreviews.de

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)

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

Short but sweet tour UK

Fri.   26th.  Kirton Lindsay – Town Hall. UK
Sun. 28th. Pontefract – Iain Matthews book launch “Thro’ My Eyes – a memoir”
Mon. 29th. Pontefract, Tap & Barrel. UK
Tue.  30th. Bilston – Robin 2. UK (w/ Magna Carta)

Shows in October.. Austria and UK!

We’ll be back on the road again in October, folks!

Fri.      12th. Thalgau. Austria
Sat.    13th.  Mayrhofen. Austria

Fri.   26th.  Kirton Lindsay – Town Hall. UK
Sun. 28th. Pontefract – Iain Matthews book launch “Thro’ My Eyes – a memoir”
Mon. 29th.tba. UK
Tue.  30th. Bilston – Robin 2. UK (w/ Magna Carta)

Live dutch national radio last night with MSC

Last night we played Leo Blokhuis’ show on Radio Npo2. We did two songs of the new album ‘Like a Radio’ live.. want to see how we sounded?

Leo Blokhuis commented on the new album when it came out in February,
“…This fine record oozes with the excitement that making music can give: beautiful melodies, very well sung and arranged to great taste…”
here he subs for Bart.. click photo to see the clips..

Click to see the clips.. in photo it’s Leo, BJ, Iain and Eric

New Dates

Matthews Southern Comfort

May
Friday 25th. Theatre de Wegwijzer. Niuew en St Joosland. NL
Sat.      26th. BAM Festival. Hengelo. NL
June
Fri.       29th. Festival. Berlin. Germany
July
Thur.  26th. Burg Herzberg Festival. Germany
Fri.      27th. Yard Club. Koln. Germany
August
Mon.  13th. Broadstairs Folk Week. Broadstairs. UK
October
Fri.      12th. Thalgau. Austria
Sat.    13th.  Mayrhofen. Austria

Fri.   26th.  Kirton Lindsay – Town Hall. UK
Sat. 27th. Wirksworth – Assembly rooms. UK
Sun. 28th. Pontefract – Iain Matthews book launch “Thro’ My Eyes – a memoir”
Mon. 29th. Barnoldswick. UK
Tue.  30th. Bilston – Robin 2. UK (w/ Magna Carta)
Wed. 31st.  Morecombe – The Platform. UK
November
Sat.    24th. In the woods. Leusden. NL
Thu.   29th. Heerenlogement. Beusichem. NL
December
Sat.      8th. Paradox. Tilburg. NL
Fri.      14th. Luxur. Arnhem. NL

 

Review on All About Jazz.com

Matthews Southern Comfort: Like A Radio

By DOUG COLLETTE

It’s been nearly half a century since the initial Matthews Southern Comfort album, and Like A Radio is the first in nearly a decade, a bonafide testament to the timeless quality of its namesake’s best work (not mention how it predated today’s Americana). Since his days in Fairport Convention, continuing into solo work that carried him to collaborations with Michael Nesmith and more pop-oriented work into the Nineties, Iain, nee Ian, Matthews has charted his own course as an artist, sufficiently self-motivated to know when pursue his own independent course, yet equally willing and able to collaborate as he does here.

On a dozen artfully-sequenced tracks, multi-instrumentalist Bart Jan Baartmans, keyboardist Bart de Win and singer/songwriter Eric Devries coalesce with the leader to replicate the sound of the original band, encapsulated by their famed rendition of Joni Mitchell’s 1970 tuned, “Woodstock.” This stylistic resemblance further reaffirmed with three additional remakes from earlier MSC releases (including James Taylor’s “Something in the Way She Moves”) on an expanded CD that runs over sixty-minutes , this folk-rooted, vocal harmony-laden approach is a far cry from the jazz-oriented, often baroque leanings of Matthews’ most recent solo endeavors.

The photo of the group’s musical instruments on the front cover of this LP may signal the irony of its title, yet in keeping with Iain’s down-to-earth demeanor, it is far more apropos of the natural affinity for each other these four core musicians display in writing, singing and playing here. Produced by Baartmans, this album is no exercise in nostalgia, as evinced by the way Matthews and company touch upon aspects of modern global culture on “The Thought Police:” they couch this topicality in a sparkling but soft mix of delicate singing and the twinkling of acoustic guitars that offer the barest hint of country music.

The glowing electric piano very effectively contrasts those textures, an effect continued in the sly titlesong; here is where it becomes apparent Like A Radio is an album in which to become deeply immersed for the sound quality alone, despite the fact there are no solos much longer than the acoustic piano there. Matthews Southern Comfort circa 2018 takes a nuanced, insinuating approach, and the bandleader’s own voice is fundamental to that inviting air, even when the material at hand is as potentially off-putting as “The Age of Isolation.”

Yet the dispassionate thinking at the root of that song, like the bulk of this collaboratively-composed material, signals the maturity of a group convinced that the passage of time has its advantages. As captured on this recording, the sound a is naturally warm, at once spare and lush (somehow) and those virtues, for some listeners, may camouflage an unflagging certainty of purpose evident within originals such as “Bits and Pieces.” Precious little here offers direct obeisance to roots as does the semi-reel “Crystals On the Glass,” but here as elsewhere, the comparative brevity of the track works in its favor.

And the wry sense of humor Matthews Southern Comfort displays during “Jive Pajamas” reaffirms the wisdom of this grouping, not mention its timely release. Over the course of time, Like A Radio should demonstrate a durability comparable to its predecessors (and so many of Mathew’s other work). But early listens to the record illuminate how gracefully its leader has aged; no longer the waif with the boyish countenance, there remains a dignity in Iain Matthews’ greying visage corresponding to the burnished instrumental and vocal strains that populate this record and render it so affecting.


Track Listing: The Thought Police; Like A Radio; The Age Of Isolation; Bits And Pieces; Darcy Farrow; Crystals On The Glass; Been Down So Long; Jive Pajamas; Phoenix Rising; To Love; Right As Rain; Chasing Rainbows; Bonus tracks: Something In The Way She Moves; A Heartless Night; Your Cake And Eat It.

Personnel: Iain Matthews: vocals, guitar; Bart Jan Baartmans: vocals, guitar, bass, drums: Bart de Win: vocals, keyboards; Eric De Vries: vocals, guitar, mandolin.

Title: Like A Radio | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Made In Germany Records