Matt Woods: Natural Disasters
After a couple of years of hearing the name Matt Woods from my mutual musician and social media promotion friends, I had finally checked out his music last year. Yeah, I’m not proud that I didn’t do it sooner, but life happens and I sometimes have a tendency to get “stuck” on certain musician’s work and unwittingly shrug off some great stuff. The man has played in my area several times, so I really needed to rectify my passiveness. Thanks to flooding of biblical proportions in March, I was unable to make it home from a trip in time to catch a live performance in my city that I had planned to attend. Fast forward two months later, he was already scheduled to play another gig in my city on a westward tour from his home state of Tennessee out to Colorado. Sweet redemption, at last.
I met a friend at a local listening room-style venue. This was her first time seeing Matt perform as well, so we were both excited for the opportunity. With it being a day after the Memorial Day holiday, an impending severe thunderstorm and flash flooding, the crowd was light. That didn’t seem to discourage Matt from giving us a performance worthy of a sold-out room. Woods has a strong voice and an energetic delivery that I feel some solo acoustic shows lack. Standing at the microphone and often moving around the stage during instrumental portions of songs, Matt never lost our attention. Pulling songs from his previous catalog of studio albums, How to Survive, With Love From Brushy Mountain and The Matt Woods Manifesto, Woods brought me up to speed with the essentials.
Knowing that he had a new album coming out in exactly a month, I was eager to hear the fresh songs. During his set, Matt quipped that all of his songs are sad, but that the ones on the new album are up-tempo sad songs. Natural Disasters has more of a rock n’ roll sound than his previous endeavors that give off more of an alt-country and Americana vibe. Honestly, I don’t find many of the songs on the new album to be very sad or at least not in the way the prior albums portrayed. The only one that I feel gives a real impression of lament is “My Southern Heart.” Ruminating on the reasons the relationship crumbled, Woods uses the life on the road as an explanation or excuse. “I’ll call you from some western town and ask how things have been / And blame it on the miles apart that keep us only friends / Knowing that the hand that took the life what might have been / Is clearly mine.” The rest of the album does deal with real life toils, but also centers on hope and redemption in the human experience.
The opening song, “Blue-Eyed Wanderer,” is a lively rock tune with a theme I can relate to, being blue-eyed and all. I love to travel and I do often for shows and festivals. It’s not all glamourous and without tiny disasters though – hence the album title, Natural Disasters. Independent artists tour almost nonstop out of necessity. Aside from the artistic need to share their commentary, gigs and selling merchandise are what pays the bills and gets their name out there. Much like in the Joey Kneiser directed video for “Blue-Eyed Wanderer,” shit happens, and you have to deal with it in often less than ideal circumstances. There are a lot of lonely hours on the road away from friends and family. You miss out on important events or milestones of the ones you leave back at home and you are always letting those things weigh heavy on the mind. However, the best part about the journeys are the new or favorite places you get to visit, meeting new people and making friends with like-minded individuals. It’s finding a balance between those things that is key and this song details just that.
A mid-tempo song that I really enjoy on the album and instantly loved during Matt’s live performance is “Drive-Thru Town.” Unless you have always resided in a large city, I think just about anyone in America can connect with this song. Some people leave those “Drive-Thru Towns” in search of a better way of life and some happily or otherwise stay behind. Listening to the lyrics you can picture the sleepy main street of such a town. It may be his hometown or it very well may be yours, with factories and business fronts closed up and the work shipped out to another place. It’s sad and frustrating. As much as you may have wanted to get out of your hometown, you hate to see its demise and the working-class folks who are still there, struggling to make ends meet.
Matt grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee not far from the maximum-security prison known as Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. It once housed some of the most heinous criminals since the late 1890s, including Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassin, James Earl Ray. Although the “Jailbird Song” isn’t about the penitentiary itself, Woods says, “it is inspired by the behavior that would land one there.” For the character in the song, he’s surrounded with temptations and doesn’t realize he’s been caught falling victim to those temptations until it’s too late. Now he’s paying the price in jail and swears to be a righteous man from here on out.
“Cold Civil War” and “The Devil Drinks Scotch” have a more social-issues undertone. “Cold Civil War” uses the Civil War as a comparison for the discord we have today in our country and even within our own families. In “The Devil Drinks Scotch,” we are reminded as we try to get ahead, the everyday American seems to really just manage the status quo because we are not always given the chance to break into a better way of life. The devil drinks scotch while we are at the mercy of the cards we are dealt. “It’s a hard troublesome way / For those who have been counting on fate / To deal out some cards they can play / And gambling their hope / Promises dance like the truth / When you’ve spent your whole life being used / Your heart like a head in a noose / At the end of your rope”
The album concludes nicely with a song of finding comfort in the things that matter most to you. “Corner of the World” reminds us not to get sucked in by the negativity in life. Keep those you love and trust, close to you for support and you will have a happy life.
Matt Woods not only titled his Lonely Ones Records album, Natural Disasters, but he has coined his band with the same name. On the Joey Kneiser produced album, he brought in musicians Adam Meisterhans on electric guitars, Jeremy Mackinder on bass, PJ Schreiner on drums along with Mike Webb on keys. Lance Howell provided the backing harmonies. All songs written by Matt Woods.
The night prior to the Friday, June 28th release, Matt Woods and the Natural Disasters will be kicking off their tour on Thursday at Nashville’s The 5 Spot with special guests Joey Kneiser, Adam Lee, and Justin Wells. With a line up like that, there is sure to be a party! From there, the band hits the road, zig zagging all across the U.S., in support of the new album. Playing for the Natural Disasters band on tour is Jeremy Mackinder on bass, Weston Harris Hill on guitar and Max Norton on drums. With a very heavy tour schedule planned, you are sure to catch Matt Woods and the Natural Disaster in a city near you.