MATTHEWS SOUTHERN COMFORT – Like A Radio (MIG MIG02023)

Like A RadioMatthews Southern Comfort – that’s a name we haven’t heard for a while and, to be honest, I’m not sure why we’re hearing it now. If you remember the MSC that had their greatest hit with ‘Woodstock’ featuring Gordon Huntley’s pedal steel – this isn’t them. If you remember Iain’s first solo album featuring Britain’s folk-rock illuminati – no not them, either. Like A Radio is a damn good Iain Matthews solo album with three old tracks revisited – Second Spring’s sublime ‘Darcy Farrow’ (on piano this time) and ‘Something In The Way She Moves’ (a superb reinterpretation)  and Carole King’s ‘To Love’ which originally opened Later That Same Year. Plus a good band.

Iain certainly isn’t looking back here. He’s supported by three Dutch musicians: multi-instrumentalist Bart Jan Baartmans, who also co-produced, Bart de Win on keys and acoustic guitarist Eric De Vries. There is a resonator guitar but not a pedal steel in sight. These are new Matthews song, often written with recent collaborators, Clive Gregson, Egbert Derix, and his three bandmates.

There are knowing touches like the quote from ‘Good Vibrations’ in ‘Chasing Rainbows’, an anthem to California co-written with de Win but for the most part these songs concern modern issues and are written in modern terms. The line “working the room like a bitch in heat” in ‘A Heartless Night’ certainly attracted my attention. The opener, ‘The Thought Police’, built on a simple acoustic guitar with a plethora of strange things, is a defiant individual’s stance in the post-truth surveillance society and Iain returns to the vicissitudes of modern life in ‘The Age Of Isolation’.

There seems to be a number of toxic relationships beginning with the title track but Iain has lost none of his melodic and lyrical skill. ‘Bits And Pieces’ matches a confoundedly catchy melody to clever words and ‘Been Down So Long’ begins with the effect of Cortez’ arrival on the indigenous people: “we’ve been down so long it looks like up to me”.

As I said, Like A Radio is a good damn Iain Matthews album and Baartmans’ electric guitar does echo the band of the 70s while de Win’s keyboards bring a new sound. While Iain looks a touch haggard in his cover photo his voice has lost none of its power, just matured like a fine wine and those harmonies are as sweet as ever.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Bits And Pieces’ – official video:

Butlins’ 2011 Great British Folk Festival – Review by Peterborough & South Lincs Folk Diary…

You have to admit that, when you take the money into account, Butlins’ 2011 Great British Folk Festival was good value. We enjoyed Bob Fox, Steve Tilston, P. J. Wright, Dave PeggAnthony John Clarke, Chumbawamba, Jane Taylor, Seth Lakeman & Richard Digance particularly, and probably Ralph McTell had we not been elsewhere. You can’t see everything, and switching venues may mean no seat at the 2nd one, big though the venues were. We thought that Matthews Southern Comfort, with his constant harping on about his hit in 1970 (we’d never heard of him) was a pain and that Steve Gibbons (apparently drunk or stoned, forgetting words) was a disgrace. Several rock bands bands had no apparent connection to folk (one had a bloke play a mandolin on one number – does that count?).

Queueing outside in the cold for 40 mins once to get a seat wasn’t fun. The choice of one ceilidh at least (there was an unused ballroom) would have been nice. You would have plenty to gripe about if you had been expecting a “conventional” folk festival, as there were no sessions, workshops, dancing of any kind or ‘meet the band’ events.

However, the four of us had a Gold 3 bedroomed apartment for 3 nights and nowt to pay to get in to all the concerts for a total, incl, insurancewe didn’t need, of £59 a head – a couple of nights in a Premier Inn without any concerts! We expected the beer & food to be pricey but were pleasantly surprised – and there was real ale and other non-musical attractions if ya liked.

The sound crews got booed twice that I heard – delays of 35/45 minutes between acts and artistes still gesticulating about their sound half way through the sets is amateur. Digance gave them some stick in an amusing way.

Pete Shaw – Peterborough & South Lincs Folk Diary www.peterboroughfolkdiary.org.uk