Scott Matthews

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - REVIEWS CDs - Kevin Court­ney

Then and now: 1968: A bright young star named Nick Drake is dis­cov­ered by leg­endary pro­ducer Joe Boyd; his de­but album, Bry­ter Later, is re­leased by Is­land Records a year later. 2006: A bright young star named Scott Matthews signs to Is­land and re­leases his de­but album, Pass­ing Strangers. “As a la­bel, it says ev­ery­thing to me about what I want to do with my mu­sic,” says the won­der­boy from Wolver­hamp­ton. “Nick Drake, John Mar­tyn, Bob Mar­ley, PJ Har­vey – there’s just a great mix of artists who’ve been on Is­land.” Lis­ten to such songs as Sweet Scented Fig­ure, Earth to Calm, Eyes Wider Than Be­fore and Dream Song, and you might think that Drake has come back from the dead to make his long-awaited third album, with Led Zep­pelin, Ravi Shankar and The Spi­ders from Mars as his back­ing band. Bluesy slide gui­tars, folksy 12-strings, tablas, cel­los and ac­cor­dions cre­ate an acous­tic storm and whip up the spir­its of English folk and rock from the 1960s and 1970s. Black coun­try boy: While count­ing Nick Drake and John Mar­tyn as he­roes, young Scott was also heav­ily in­flu­enced by Robert Plant, who hailed from nearby West Brom. Scott got his first gui­tar at seven and his first elec­tric at 11. He laughs now at his early at­tempts to play lead gui­tar. “I thought I was John Fr­us­ciante – then I woke up.” His awak­en­ing brought him to a world of tune­ful, po­etic folk-rock, and he was soon writ­ing his own heart­felt songs and play­ing gigs around the mid­lands. He also handed out his self-made de­mos, prompt­ing two lo­cal en­trepreneurs to form a record la­bel, San Remo, to re­lease Scott’s de­but album, Pass­ing Stranger. The album caught the in­ter­est of ma­jor la­bels, and when Scott played a gig at the 12 Bar Club in Lon­don last spring, the ex­ecs were there with cheque­books. Matthews, as mod­est and self- ef­fac­ing as Drake, ig­nored the of­fers of big ad­vances and went for the la­bel that was once home to his big­gest hero. Tablas turn: While record­ing Pass­ing Strangers at Moles­ley in Birm­ing­ham, Scott needed a tabla sound. His in­quiries led him to Sukhvin­der Singh Namd­hari, who jammed along for a few hours, veer­ing be­tween loose grooves and pre­cise dy­nam­ics. “He just blew us away,” says Scott. “Who’d have thought you could get so many ideas out of a drum?” Namd­hari nailed down a num­ber of su­perb tabla tracks, but it was only af­ter he left that Scott dis­cov­ered that he used to be in the Ravi Shankar Orches­tra, and had played with such greats as Ry Cooder. Hello strangers: Is­land re-re­leased Pass­ing Strangers in au­tumn, and To­day FM’s Tom Dunne im­me­di­ately made it his album of the month. Dave Grohl was so im­pressed he drafted Scott in as a sup­port act to Foo Fight­ers, and BBC Ra­dio jocks Zane Lowe, Mark Rad­cliff and Jo Whi­ley have been spin­ning his sin­gles, Elu­sive and Dream Song.

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