Matt Andersen can really sing.
With a range spanning from powerful baritone to delicate and intricate, he drives his music with a confidence and ability that makes you pay attention.
Following a European tour, Andersen will be playing in the Yukon in early October.
I recently spent an evening with his latest album, Coal Mining Blues.
Using a voice that is an appealing mix of gravelly blues and smooth soul, along with his renowned guitar ability, Andersen has created an album that draws you in with its strength and holds you with its subtleties.
Born in New Brunswick, Andersen has been making a career from music since 2002.
From jangly and energetic to more delicately crafted folk-blues numbers, Coal Mining Blues is an album that is well-suited to a Friday evening or a Sunday afternoon.
It’s an easy album to listen to. Partly this is because Andersen sticks to a tried and true approach; he isn’t trying to rewrite the blues and the listener isn’t challenged with unfamiliar concepts or overt experimentation.
Backed with his clear, deep voice and intricate guitar work, he has something genuine to add to his genre which, although well-trodden, often doesn’t quite provide the raw energy Andersen does.
Furthermore, the album production standard is very high. Again, there’s nothing here others haven’t done before, but it’s a refined version. Each sound has its designated place in the mix—it’s never cluttered, yet the sound is full when it needs to be and always rich.
Andersen’s guitar playing is almost as strong as his voice and gives the album a depth that is well worth exploring closely.
From laid-back acoustic moments, such as “Willie’s Diamond Joe”, to harder hitting electric solos, as in “Fired up”, Andersen demonstrates the skill that earned him recognition in the UK from The Times as Canada’s greatest guitarist.
At times intricate layers weave just beneath the vocals, as in “Lay it on the Line”, where strong keyboard, piano, backing vocals and multiple guitars make it worth putting the headphones on for a closer listen.
But sometimes it’s just raw energy that makes you want to keep listening, such as the funky track, “Work Hard for the Luxury”.
The maturity and depth that Andersen gives his music belies his age. Songs like the title track, “Coal Mining Blues”, contain a deep expression other artists have spent a career working to achieve and Andersen makes it sound effortless.
Anderson has shared the stage with the likes of Randy Bachman, Bo Diddley and Little Feat, and his live performances have been well reviewed. In 2011 he was awarded entertainer of the year and acoustic act of the year at the Maple Blues Awards.
Andersen has said he likes the “total honesty” in blues. Coal Mining Blues exemplifies this and provides insight into a deeper side that drives his song writing.
This is not a tortured blues collection of loss and woe. Conversely, Coal Mining Blues seems drawn from a lighter, happier place that leaves you feeling warm and thoughtful.
Sticking to blues tradition, love is the central theme. Not heartbreak in this case; more an expression of devotion and appreciation drive the lyrics in many of the tracks.
“Baby I’ll be There” contains the lyrics “If you want peace, baby I’ll be peace / Baby I’ll be everything you need”.
An album like this communicates deeply and each song stands alone as a unique experience. Overall, it’s an uplifting piece of raw, driven blues/folk/rock.
Anderson will be playing Dawson City at the Odd Fellows Ballroom on October 3, and in Whitehorse at the Yukon Arts Centre on October 5.