Matt Woods “How to Survive” (Lonely Ones Records 2017)

Matt Woods hails from Knoxville, Tennessee where this CD was recorded in Shed 55. Here is an album to linger with and learn from. Matt accepts the reality of modern life. In Love in a Nuclear Age he sings, “No one’s been smart enough /To write a book on how to survive.” Maybe not, but here is a collection of songs that attempts very successfully to do just that thing.

The first track, The American Way is an evocation of what is America: “Bottle, rockets on Independence Day… The Union strike in ‘89… 12 hours on that picket line… PTSD and a VA loan.” The realisation is that war can be in the desert or closer to home, when the forklift failed, and “he was bleeding on the factory floor.” That coupled with the family’s reliance on a bottle of pills makes makes the point clearly.

Yet, in the second track, Fireflies, we are bowled over, this time by a tender love song. The first line, “They danced to Cheatin’ Heart a thousand times” prepares you for the implied anguish to come, and the music and words are confirming: “Slow dance with fireflies on summer nights/ And fall in love over again.” These lyrics, Matt’s voice and Todd Beene’s pedal steel confirm the haunting nature of the performance.

There are hints throughout the album of Matt’s life on the road. He has toured extensively in the States and in Europe, recently in the UK. In Bound to Lose, he refers to his life “Wrapped up in guitar strings/ Tethered to the road.” “A lonely man”. What he wants is not “Old guitars and hotel bars” but to be home with his love in Tennessee.

In fact, all the tracks are an evocation of life in America and the West, brought to life by Matt’s Tennessee voice, thoughts, emotions and humanity.

Author: Dave Clarke

I have always loved Americana music, even before it had a name. I’ve been a teacher (secondary and tertiary) all my professional life.

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