Coal Mining Blues not all blue
Matt Andersen to play Spatz theatre Nov. 18-19
Matt Andersen’s acoustic guitar wizardry fills a concert hall like few instruments can—only his voice equals it for rare, easy power. Andersen’s music has quickly become emblematic of the east coast blues scene, and his live shows are known to bring that feeling to a room where audience and performer come together so seamlessly that the place is, for a resonant moment, as alive as a Cape Breton kitchen party.
Andersen’s performances command attention. On stage he bellows, soars and rattles like a ghost carrying a hundred-year chain of blues legends behind him; audiences are entranced. Part prophet, part reveler and complete bluesman, Andersen is a worthy Maritime ambassador to America and Europe, where he has garnered significant recognition, receiving both the Memphis International Blues Challenge and Maple Blues award.
It’s unlikely that all the international attention will change Andersen’s modus operandi, which is an endless grind, similar to the hard-working characters in his new album, Coal Mining Blues (recorded in Levon Helms Studio NY). All the miles and jam sessions seem to be paying off.
Each subsequent album has seen tighter production and a more precise capture of Andersen’s music. But it’s the increasingly refined songwriting that catches the ear. Though the impeccable recording leaves one wishing for some of the raw imperfections of his live performance, Coal Mining Blues is a showcase for beautiful melodies, vocals and tales of unsung heroes. A few paint the threshold between the interior life and the daily struggle of his characters, saying, “black on my heart and black on my sleeve,” in an approach to understated tragedy.
As a genre, blues is about hard times, but it’s also about transcending those times with melody and verse. Andersen reminds us that the blues can be joyful, and in spite of all the scrape and wear, life’s consolations may emerge all the sweeter. As he grows as a storyteller, Andersen also captures the plight of ordinary Canadians—lives built on the determination to work hard and live humbly. Andersen’s blues cut close to home, and the audience knows it. He might just be the antidote to today’s restless, rootless and often instrument-less radio fare.
Matt Andersen will be playing the Spatz Theatre Nov. 18 and 19.