Skin Back Alley’s Top Albums of 2014

SBA Top Albums Of 2014-001

Anyone who says that 2014 hasn’t been a great year for music simply isn’t looking – or listening – hard enough. In fact, with each and every year that passes, the late broadcaster John Peel’s answer to the perennial question “What has been the best year for music?” seems more and more appropriate. When asked, he would reportedly answer simply and in that instantly recognisable voice each and every year, “Last year. And the year before that.”

As the debate about digital music distribution continues, and artists and labels argue about the best way to ensure that their music reaches our ears and still makes money, the most forward thinking bands, singers and songwriters are finding their audiences by ever more direct ways and means, and fans old and new are connecting with that music in new and myriad different ways. Putting the commercial aspects of the industry to one side for a moment however, the last 12 months have seen rich pickings for those prepared to seek them out.

So, without further ado, here are the Skin Back Alley picks of the vintage that was 2014. Feast your eyes and ears, and let us know what you think.

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servers_leave_with_us1. SERVERS – Leave With Us
Eschewing the philosophy of heavy for heavy’s sake, Barnsley based kings of cult SERVERS unveiled their remarkable debut album right back at the beginning of the year. Leave With Us arrived in February, indisputably well-crafted and undeniably fully formed, delivering densely layered arrangements that exist in an abrasive rock space, but that never sacrifice melody along the way. Debut single “Universes and Supernovas (The Ride)” set out the band’s stall in its up tempo blast of squally punk attitude, bolted on to a melodic hook that is, well, supernova in size.
Later in the year “Claustrophobia” proved that SERVERS were also capable of off-kilter alternative beauty in the vein of, say, Soundgarden’s cross-over smash “Black Hole Sun.” Collaborator Mark Latham served up an astonishing video to accompany it, too. But it was Leave With Us’ central epic “Dangerous Devotion” that lingered longest in the heart and mind, building in stature through its early verse and chorus until, in one fell swoop, it knocked us off our feet with its string laden coda, melting our faces along the way.
As if that wasn’t enough, the album was meaty of lyric, too. “[Leave With Us] took a dark lyrical context from conversations in the band and an interest in the subservient nature of people, and how cults or individuals can hold such a power over certain people, to the point of killing others or themselves for a cause. It’s both fascinating and terrifying,” said SERVERS in recent interview with Skin Back Alley. Well quite. Add in their post-millennial image of dark, hooded figures lurking in the murky shadows, and SERVERS proved that they were the real deal, here to stay. As Skin Back Alley was wont to say in our album review: “Both future vision AND past nightmare, Leave With Us is a stunning debut album, and in this time of crisis creation, SERVERS are surely the UK’s finest new rock and metal hope.”
Find out more at: Serversband.co.uk

King 810 Memoirs Cover2. King 810 – Memoirs Of A Murderer
If one thing was certain during 2014, it was that everyone in the rock and metal community had an opinion about King 810’s debut, Memoirs Of A Murderer, most of them seemingly negative. It only took a few moments of searching the net to unearth vast swathes of rubbish written about the crew from Flint, Michigan, who made a heavy, groove-laden, monumental metal racket, spitting lyrics that concerned gun crime, death, the downtrodden and dispossessed, hard lives and even harder hearts.
But accusations of bravado and the glamorising of murder and guns were, to these ears, hugely wide of the mark. Memoirs… certainly does not exist to shout “Look at me! Aren’t I clever and cool with a gun in my pocket!” As Skin Back Alley noted in its piece on the LP, the album “…does not boast or beautify. No, this album is run through with dread, fear, regret, the hardening of hearts and the sure knowledge that to be prepared and carry a gun is to become something less than human at the same time as being the only way to survive.”
Frontman and chief songwriter David Gunn revealed himself to be a master poet and lyricist in his missives which were presented as if they were the recorded memoirs of the album’s title, and an expert in delivering them in shocking, vivid, venomous and brilliantly realised vignettes. If defined as something creative that gets under your skin and makes you reconsider your world view, then Memoirs Of A Murderer proved itself to be nothing short of art.
Find out more at: King810.com

Birds Of Satan3. The Birds Of Satan – The Birds Of Satan
By the time November of this year rolled around, the world of rock was all about one band. You couldn’t open a magazine, navigate to a website or switch on HBO without hearing mention of Sonic Highways, the new album (and documentary series) from Foo Fighters. But whilst Skin Back Alley remained ever so slightly underwhelmed by Grohl & Co’s eighth LP, it was his stick wielding colleague, drummer Taylor Hawkins, who delivered the real rock gold back in April.
Teaming up with guitarist Mick Murphy (of My Ruin, Neanderthal and Chevy Metal fame) and bassist Wiley Hodgden (also a Chevy Metal alumnus), The Birds Of Satan delivered a boundary-hopping, rule-breaking, category-defying rock n’ roll masterpiece.
The chemistry evident on the band’s eponymous debut was undeniable, the three men (with a little help from their friends) hopping, skipping and jumping through select styles with a vintage sound that was full of unabashed joy. Murphy’s guitar wrangling was particularly impressive, providing several of the LPs high points in the tones, textures, rhythms and solos that propel the album along.
Consistently talked about in the press as a Hawkins side-project, the album felt far more substantial than that. As Skin Back Alley noted at the time of release: “…Contrary to popular belief, the Devil doesn’t have all the best tunes. Take a stroll over to his aviary, however, and you might just find them there.”
The band remained fairly low-key for the rest of the year, with just fleeting live performances and a couple of TV spots on US talk show Last Call With Carson Daly. A new, non-album track “Be The Bird” slipped out with literally no warning in September, and all has been quiet on the Western front since. Nevertheless, even if this gem of a record proves to be a one-off, you make damn sure you acquaint yourself with it, and sooner rather than later.
Find out more at: Thebirdsofsatan.com

Matt Woods - Brushy Full Size4. Matt Woods – With Love From Brushy Mountain
In a post-modern world, notions of the ‘real’ and the ‘authentic’ fall by the wayside. Thank goodness then for Matt Woods and his album With Love From Brushy Mountain, released in the Spring. Woods’ second LP delivered a rich slab of ‘real’ Americana straight from the heart of Knoxville, Tennessee, mesmerising us in the process.
“I write what is ready to come out and try to be as honest as I can about it,” says Woods of his songs. “A lot of my songs are very much based in classic Country music while others are grounded in straight forward and greasy rock’n’roll.” Yes indeed, and they always seem to arrive with wonderful results.
“If there’s a finer example of a musician bleeding on to record, we’ve yet to hear it,” we noted in our review, and whilst there is nothing brazen or flashy about Woods’ songwriting or musicianship, there is an astonishing amount of the highest quality. You may have guessed that at Skin Back Alley we very much fell in love with With Love From Brushy Mountain.
Find out more at: Therealmattwoods.com

Then Thickens - Death Cap at Anglezarke5. Then Thickens – Deathcap At Anglezarke
On the other side of the Pennines, alternative rock magic was hard at work in the Chorley borough of Anglezarke. A sparsely populated area of Lancashire dominated by open country and a reservoir, the parish proved to be fertile ground for the imagination of Then Thickens. Their resulting debut album as a six-piece was a masterful and atmospheric slice of hazy indie-rock.
Mixing the melodic grunge stylings of the likes of Weezer with a peculiarly British sensibility, Death Cap… delivers an existential Thoreau-esque treatise on growing up in the more rural confines of contemporary England. A heady brew that takes in fuzzed-up guitar, ethereal synth, pounding drums and spectral vocals, Then Thickens’ brand of melodic, mellifluous and yet rough-hewn rock and roll stayed long in the memory.
Chief architect Jon-Lee Martin said in interview with Skin Back Alley: “The songs were kind of put together at random for the record… There wasn’t really much lineage to the choices of the songs.” And yet, serendipitously or otherwise, that overarching sense of returning to the self remained. The group have been back in the studio recently, hard at work on the follow up. We can’t wait to hear the results.
Find out more at: Facebook.com/thenthickens

Miss Shevaughn - LITW6. Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray – Lean Into The Wind
A fine collection of beautifully crafted Cosmic American Music, husband and wife duo Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray’s album Lean Into The Wind seems to inhabit the very essence of the term coined by Americana pioneer Gram Parsons.
Both emotionally and politically charged, the music on display runs the gamut from Byrdsian psychedelic jangle, through Appalachian folk textures, past a raucous garage clatter and on to greasier, rockier ground.
“Don’t you cast your eyes down,” implores Miss Shevaughn in album closer “Brush The Dust Off (Lean Into The Wind)”, “Don’t you heed what they say…. Darlin’ you need somewhere to fly. Lean into the wind, we gotta’ keep movin’.”
“It might be natural to wonder who she is singing to following a diagnosis of cervical cancer in January 2013. Is it us, or herself?” we wondered in our review. In the end it didn’t really matter, for here are artists who know what it means to follow your dreams regardless of what may be around the corner.
Find out more at: Missshevaughnyumawray.com

Marmozets Cover7. Marmozets – The Weird & Wonderful Marmozets
The sheer breadth and depth of talent bursting out of Yorkshire and rampaging across the globe this year was phenomenal. In at the heavier end of the vibrant spectrum were Marmozets. Weird & Wonderful? You can count on it. The band’s debut album, released via Roadrunner later in the year, was rightly seized upon by the major music press as a remarkable slab of molten maths metal, rife with huge, crackling stop-start riffs and the agile stylings of frontwoman Becca McIntyre, who proved perfectly capable of shifting between splenetic rage one moment and soaring melody the next.
If anyone had anything contrary to say about the LP it was that it seemed ever so slightly more tame than Marmozets’ legendary live shows that they had been laying on for years prior to being scooped up by a major. But to these ears that mattered not one jot, as it simply refined their sound and showed that the northern upstarts were capable of painting a broad and complex canvas that fired the imagination as much as the heart and hips.
Find out more at: Marmozets.co.uk

Cloud Atlas Beyond The Vale Cover8. Cloud Atlas – Beyond The Vale
Far from being a long extinct dinosaur from a forgotten age, progressive rock proved that in 2014 it is alive, well and still exploring music’s fantastic and expansive outer reaches in fine style. Proof of the fact came in the debut album from Cloud Atlas, the York based band that rose like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes of previous outfit Stolen Earth.
Questing to realise her singular vision with her own band, head honcho Heidi Widdop set her controls for the heart of the sun, delivering an epic set of songs that tackled subjects metaphorical and philosophical, set against a backdrop of sublime instrumentation from guitarist Martin Ledger, Dave Randall on keys, Stuart Carver on bass and Neil Scott on percussion.
At the forefront of all this was Widdop herself, her astonishing vocals holding the whole thing together like a female version of Soundagarden’s Chris Cornell: all guttural and gritty power combined with exquisite and expert control. Elegantly simple in sound but achingly complex in scope, Beyond The Vale was a real highlight of the latter part of the year.
Find out more at: Cloudatlas.org.uk

Machine Head Bloodstone and Diamonds9. Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds
Alarm bells began to ring earlier this year when Bay Area veterans Machine Head announced that they were cancelling tour dates in order to spend more time in the studio refining their new album. Mainman Robb Flynn talked in terms of knowing that the band had something special and wanting to ensure that it got the attention it deserved. Nevertheless, journos and public alike were wont to wonder.
As it transpired, doubters needn’t have worried. On its release, Bloodstone & Diamonds proved to be something of a mainstream metal instant classic, bringing together everything that Machine Head have done so well for over two decades.
Punishing riffs and gargantuan grooves abounded across the album’s running time, alongside more experimental touches and textures, combining to deliver an immensely satisfying whole that deserved every plaudit it received.
“This is the finest mainstream metal album of 2014 by a huge margin” wrote seasoned metal scribe Dom Lawson in his Guardian review. Agreed, Dominic. Agreed.
Find out more at: Machinehead1.com

Acrania-Totalitarian-Dystopia10. Acrania – Totalitarian Dystopia
“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever” wrote George Orwell in his literary classic, Nineteen Eighty-Four. And now, thanks to the UK’s extreme metal crew Acrania, you know what that future sounds like.
Not for the faint of heart, Totalitarian Dystopia does exactly what it says on the tin, tackling head-on the theme of a totalitarian state endlessly and needlessly crushing the individuality and freedom out of every human soul with unimpeded impunity.
As loud as an erupting volcano, as heavy as a planet and as dense as a black hole, anyone who listened was likely left a gibbering wreck, but the ride proved as thrilling as it did bruising. For those with a taste for the far reaching extremes of heavy music, there was no finer example released this year.
Find out more at: Facebook.com/acraniauk

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Honourable mentions need to go to those albums that have been sitting just outside of our Top 10, but have nevertheless made a significant impression over the past 12 months and spent a great deal of time on the Skin Back Alley stereo:

Distorted Harmony and their brilliant LP Chain Reaction have kept us in contemporary prog rapture for a large part of the year; Amaranthe delivered the best album of their career in Massive Addictive, which did exactly what it said on the tin; Sanctorum’s new full length Old Ghosts/New Wars served up a thrashtastic slice of metal that got its full roadtest on tour with My Ruin in August; Million Empire’s new EP The Lion Tamer proved to be a brilliant slice of alt-rock from Brum; Christina Rubino crafted a life-affirming work of singer-songwriter genius in her (A)Live From The Scrapheap LP which will be the subject of a future article here at SBA; Gandalf’s Fist created Jim Henson’s Labyrinth in prog-rock form with their woodland fantasy A Forest Of Fey; Matty Rockville harked back to prime-era 90’s REM with his gem of a record Chestnut Ave; Sister Sin’s fifth studio album Black Lotus had us pumping fists and playing air guitar like we were in Skid Row; Black Veil Brides’ self titled new release had us praising their songcraft and Bob Rock’s production to all who would listen; Nikki Lane’s All Or Nothin’, John Kilzer’s Hide Away and M.Lockwood Porter’s 27 had us drinking at the well of Americana that somehow never seems to dry up; and finally Panic Room’s new album Incarnate had us soaring on the wings of Anne Marie Helder’s wonderful voice and new guitarist Adam O’Sullivan’s extraordinary solos.

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Interview: on the road with Matt Woods

Matt Woods_Michelle Crosby
Photo: Michelle Crosby

In May of this year, Skin Back Alley had the pleasure of being knocked off our feet by the new album from Knoxville’s very own Matt Woods. With Love From Brushy Mountain is a stunning album: rich, warm and full aurally, aesthetically and emotionally. We were moved to note: “If there’s a finer example of a musician bleeding on to record, we’ve yet to hear it.”

So what does the man have to say about himself and his music? We were lucky enough to catch up with Woods recently as the months long first leg of his “Now With Drums!” tour was winding down. Woods was just as you might expect to find him; open and honest, shooting straight from the heart.

Skin Back Alley: For those who may not be familiar with you, particularly here in the UK, can you tell us a bit about Matt Woods and your music?

Matt Woods: Well, I was born and raised in East Tennessee and I think that shines through in the music. At least I hope that’s the case. As a kid, I spent a lot of time listening to my father’s records of the country greats like Haggard, Cash and Kristofferson. As my music matured, my writing started to lean more and more in that direction, while bringing along the rock and roll attitude that defined my teens and twenties.

SBA: I was really struck with how rich, warm and full the record sounds. Where and how did you record With Love From Brushy Mountain?

MW: I record in Knoxville at Shed 55 Studios with my long time pal Dave DeWitt. We have been making records together for years, now. The space is small and a very comfortable place to work. Dave has mastered his room and really knows how to capture the sounds we are looking to have on the records.

SBA: There’s some amazing musicianship on show. Who played with you on the record and how did you find them?

MW: I am thankful to have so many talented friends in the Knoxville area and across the south who have been willing to come into the studio and add themselves to the recordings. The album features some bass tracks from Fifth On The Floor bassist Jason Parsons, pedal steel from The Black Lillies very own Tom Pryor, and drums from Larry Fulford, who comes from Orlando, FL and has been playing and recording with me for a few years now.

The lovely female vocals came courtesy of Sarrenna Mcnulty who, along with her hubby, have a great band here in Knoxville called Guy Marshall. From Gainesville, FL came Michael Claytor and his banjo chops. Guitars on the album came from Andy Westcott of the band Homemade Wine, Greg Horne (who also played mandolin, fiddle, and lap steel), and Tim Lee. All of the guitar slingers are based here in Knoxville, as is the piano man, Ben Maney.

Matt Woods_Michelle Crosby 002
Photo: Michelle Crosby

SBA: You’ve been playing extensively across the USA recently on your “Now With Drums!” tour. How has the reception been for your shows?

MW: The shows were great! I was very happy to be able to take Larry along on drums for such a massive tour. He has toured with me some in the past, but this is by far the biggest tour we have done together. We started playing as a 2 piece whilst I was down in Florida after recording the last record, The Matt Woods Manifesto, back in 2010.

SBA: I can’t help but feel that your music would go down a storm here in the UK, on the Bob Harris Country show for example. Do you think you’ll make it over to the UK to perform in the future?

MW: I hope to make it over there whilst supporting this album. I have never toured in the UK or Europe, but it is certainly a huge goal of mine!

SBA: Have you always loved and been around music?

MW: Yeah. Music has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mother likes to tell stories of my dancing as a baby, even. There was a lot of music in our house as a child and I realised it was something powerful early on.

SBA: There seems to be a wide variety of influences in your music: country, rock and roll, blues, hints of psychedelia and that ‘cosmic American’ sound. Where have you drawn those influences from?

MW: I think it’s safe to say that I keep an open ear and could be influenced by any sort of music if it strikes me right (or wrong, in some cases, which may influence me to steer clear of a particular arrangement etc.) However, some of my favourites have been Kristofferson, Waylon, CCR, Tom Petty, Steve Earle and many of the Texas writers. It’s hard to narrow down. Larry can tell you how badly I suck at the old “if you were stuck on an island and could only have 5 records” game. I am a genuine fan of music.

SBA: George Jones, and Ben Nichols and the crew from Lucero obviously get name checks in the album lyrics. I presume you like what they did/do in their respective musical lives?

MW: Certainly! I always travel with some George and some Lucero. I regret never getting to see George Jones before he passed.

SBA: Your online persona uses the word “real” extensively. Are notions of the real and authenticity important in your work?

MW: For sure. I try to be honest in my writing despite how unfortunate or ugly that may be. I think it is important to be honest and paint an accurate picture.

Matt Woods_Michelle Crosby 003
Photo: Michelle Crosby

SBA: What do you think makes “real” music?

MW: I think as long as it rings true and means something to you as the writer as well as the folks listening, you’re heading in the right direction.

SBA: You’re from Knoxville, Tennessee. Do you think that as places that they have fed into your music?

MW: Absolutely. I am who I am in large part because of my environment. I find this area fascinating too, and want to share some of that with the world.

SBA: The video for “Deadman’s Blues” is quite the emotional suckerpunch. How did the video come about and who made it with you?

MW: The song itself means a lot to me and I wanted to make sure the video was shot accordingly. I’m really proud of it. I am very new to the whole shooting a music video thing. It was a lot of fun to shoot! I did that with Loch & Key Productions which is also based here in Knoxville and has produced videos for other bands locally.

SBA: We loved With Love From Brushy Mountain here at Skin Back Alley. Does it bother you at all that – compared with some other artists working in a similar musical vein – you remain more unknown or low key at the moment?

MW: I can’t worry about things like that. All I know to do is make the best music I know how and do all I can to get it heard. For me that means a life spent mostly on the road. I am flattered, however, to sometimes draw comparisons to Jason Isbell or Sturgill Simpson (who is now gathering quite a bit of attention). Maybe I’ll get the opportunity to tour with one of those guys someday.

SBA: What would success look like for you now that …Brushy Mountain has been released?

MW: I hope to reach more and more folks. I have plans for another US tour this Fall and am working on trying to figure out how to get over the Atlantic as well as into Canada. This year has brought me more festival dates than ever before. I hope to keep and grow the festival appearances. I am also trying to get added to some larger tours as a support act in hopes of reaching new music fans who may like what I have going on.

SBA: And what’s next on the Matt Woods schedule?

MW: Another string of months on the road, followed by the shooting of another music video, and plenty of writing for the 3rd album!

You can watch the official video for Matt Woods’ song “Deadman’s Blues” below:

Matt Woods - Brushy Full SizeWith Love From Brushy Mountain is out now.

Read Skin Back Alley’s five star review of the album here.

Find out more about Matt and order your copy of With Love From Brushy Mountain at therealmattwoods.com


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The Playlist, 16th May 2014

Here’s a selection of the music in residence on the office stereo right now.

Just click on the album covers to find out more!

Louise Distras Dreams From The Factory Floor   Chestnut Avenue

Cynic-Kindly-Bent-to-Free-Us Matt Woods - Brushy Full Size Then Thickens - Death Cap at Anglezarke Turbid North - Orogeny

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New music releases, 12th May 2014

Here are this week’s new and notable music releases for week commencing 12th May 2014:

Matt Woods - Brushy Full Size
With Love From Brushy Mountain, Matt Woods

Heavy Reverie, Buffalo Killers
Turn Blue, The Black Keys
Xscape, Michael Jackson
Unrepentant Geraldines, Tori Amos
Splinters, Vallenfyre
First Mind, Nick Mulvey
Down IV Part 2, Down
Glorious, Foxes
Live At The Royal Albert Hall (Box Set), Suede
Nabuma Rubberband, Little Dragon
The Complete Studio Recordings, The Beat
Live In London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993, Dio
Blue Smoke, Dolly Parton
Stuff, Eleanor McEvoy
Cool Planet, Guided By Voices

Many of the above releases are available via the Skin Back Alley Music Store.

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Album Review: Matt Woods | With Love From Brushy Mountain

Matt Woods - Brushy Full SizeOur Verdict: 5/5
Release date: May 13th 2014
Find it at: Matt Woods’ official site

“Perfectly balanced moments of tone and texture that build to make a sum much greater than than the album’s parts…If there’s a finer example of a musician bleeding on to record, we’ve yet to hear it.”

Without wishing to sound too much like a college professor, postmodern cultural theory has it that we are so far removed from authentic experience these days, that our lives have broken down into a series of increasingly meaningless signs and signifiers that relate – only in some distant way – to a reality that no longer exists.

Heavy, right? Particularly now that ‘authenticity’ and ‘reality’ are such fluid concepts. What the hell does ‘real’ mean anymore anyway?

It’s possible to argue – especially outside of the United States where listeners are one step removed again – that country and country-inflected music, Americana if you will, has been subject to this kind of breakdown of meaning more than most. Country music is at once instantly recognisable in its sound, and yet seems to be easily overlooked or mocked by many for an old-fashioned philosophy; a way of living and being and experiencing the world that seems outdated or irrelevant.

It seems entirely appropriate, then, that the word ‘real’ crops up all over the place when it comes to this Tennessee troubadour.

Be it his website, his Twitter feed, his Facebook page or, most importantly, his music, here he is: The Real Matt Woods.

The first slab of concrete reality that hits you when listening to With Love From Brushy Mountain, is the indisputable warmth of its sound. There’s a fullness – a depth – to this record; something that seems increasingly rare in recording today. It doesn’t take too much of a stretch of the imagination to picture Woods cutting this album directly to acetate before shipping it off for pressing and distribution. Old fashioned? Perhaps. But it would certainly be tangible; real; present.

It’s perfect, too, that opening track ‘Ain’t No Living’ seems to be suggesting that it’s nigh on impossible to earn a crust writing, recording and touring roots music in this way today; and yet it also explicitly acknowledges that it’s the only thing that Woods knows how, or wants, to do. “It ain’t no living, it’s my life.” It’s nigh on impossible then, but here he is doing it anyway. Postmodern? Following his dream? Plain ol’ hardheadedness? We’ll let you decide.

Maybe it’s why he’s “…drinking to forget how drunk I got last night…” in ‘Drinking To Forget’. A traditional country-inflected lament for sure, but one somehow brought kicking and screaming into the present with the oh-so-Generation-X acknowledgement that “…we got the rest of our lives to wonder whether how we’re living right now is right.” For the moment it’s naught but another whisky, and alcohol-induced oblivion, on the horizon.

But for all this heart, …Brushy Mountain comes with a healthy and acerbic dose of humour, too. Take the verse of the blustery ‘West Texas Wind’ for example. “Well the man on the record was a son of a bitch,” opines Woods, “to make me believe in this rambling shit.” Ironic then that the brilliance of Woods’ music may well inspire some other lonesome buck to do just the same.

And what brilliance there is in the music. There’s nothing brazen or flashy about the instrumentation or arrangements here, but there is quality by the bucket-load. Every note, every melody, serves nothing but the song that it’s a part of. Listen to the rollicking banjo and piano in the up-tempo honky-tonk of ‘Snack Bar Mary and the Ten Pin Priest’, or the gritty rock-tinged guitar in ‘Tiny Anchors’ or the title track. They’re all perfectly balanced moments of tone and texture that build to make a sum much greater than than the album’s parts. Even the one moment of stand-alone instrumetal mastery – a soaring electric guitar solo in the latter part of closing track ‘Liberty Bell’ – feels like an integral sonic necessity, rather than an egocentric indulgence.

‘Deadman’s Blues’ is something of a centrepiece for the LP. As the first single released late last year, it’s an astounding showcase for the delights that …Brushy Mountain has to offer. All strummed guitar and ghostly lap steel in it’s opening bars, it builds piece by piece, layer by layer, until a stunning and dynamic breakdown when all instrumentation drops away, and Woods fires his heart out through his chest, voice barely able to contain the strength of feeling: “…fumbling ’round without a thing to loose, like I don’t want it all, hell I don’t want it all!” If there’s a finer example of a musician bleeding on to record, we’ve yet to hear it.

All of which makes it even more dumbfounding that Woods seems to be all but unknown outside of select circles of musicians, and already dedicated, die-hard converts to his cause. How could an artist of such skill, such depth, such integrity and intent – an artist who seems so REAL – remain so low key?

Well, you’ve got us beat; it’s a mystery. “I write what is ready to come out and try to be as honest as I can about it,” says Woods of his songs. “A lot of my songs are very much based in classic Country music while others are grounded in straight forward and greasy rock’n’roll.” Indeed, and even in this postmodern world, they seem more authentic – more relevant – than ever.

Find out more about Matt Woods by visiting his official website.

You can watch the offical video for album track, ‘Deadman’s Blues’, below:

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