Scott Matthews + Ady Johnson, Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth, 4th October 2018.

Whilst heckling of a complimentary nature is probably welcomed by most performers, when the name John Martyn popped up during Scott Matthews’ set there was a mildly perturbing shout of, “You’re better than he is….cos he’s dead!” from the crowd. Welcome back to Portsmouth Mr Matthews, welcome back. With that tumbleweed of a comment however he strummed into the twisting croon of ‘So Long My Moonlight’ and more than a little John Martyn influence revealed itself (understandably given that former Martyn cohort Danny Thompson appears on the 2011 recording).

The tale of the once next bright hope, national radio airplay, recipient of awards (Ivor Novello) but then ultimately dropped by a major record label a few years later is hardly a rare one – pretty much the modern norm in fact. Yet for Scott Matthews, the post label setting up of his own home studio and Shedio record label, selling to a faithful audience may just have been the best long-term result. ‘Song to a Wallflower’, ‘Sunlight’ and title track ‘The Great Untold’ amongst others were all featured cuts from the new album. The album being a stripped back simple affair meant there was no problem for him to reproduce it live and solo. His haunting affecting vocals accompanied with vintage Guild guitars and an amplified tone so flowing with fluid thickness that ‘submarine reverb’ perhaps best puts it. Elsewhere, of the new tracks ‘As The Day Passes’ moved a little more with flamenco flavour and ‘Cinnamon’ was performed with a simple yet embracing ambience.

He certainly appeared in good spirits and we were treated to vocal recordings of his seven-month young son as his then impending fatherhood was clearly a lyrical inspiration on the new album. He’s also enthusiastically keen to talk any matters football, unsurprising given the recent resurgence of his local Wolverhampton Wanderers. The evening’s only cynicism came as he mentioned the possibility of releasing the 12 string strumming of ‘Something Real’ as a single before sighing, “Nah, what’s the point, the DJ’s then just ignore it.” A well argued case for 2018 radio exposure and the modern flailing singles market. Plucked voluntarily from the crowd was a local, Sam, who provided way more than adequate accompaniment on percussive djembe duties for the excellent ‘Passing Stranger’. The night finished with (the award winning) ‘Elusive’ from Matthews’ 2006 debut album. Six discs in and in his words, “Plenty more musical journeys to come.” Plenty of admirers will be joining him on that road for sure.

Support came from Suffolk raised Ady Johnson playing a selection of tracks from his 2018 release ‘London Songs’. His tunes may be inspired by the capital city but you’d guess his soul is a little more rooted in the deep south USA. ‘Oh Caroline’ and ‘The Black and Blue’ featured some fine blues picking whilst ‘The Whale Song’ plucked some nice rag time folk. Performing on his own was perfectly fine, but for tunes such as ‘New Years Day’ you couldn’t help but imagine a New Orleans marching band in swinging accompaniment.

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