As heard on TV, only bet­ter

The real-life song­writ­ing duo be­hind some tunes in tele­vi­sion’s ‘Nashville’ stomps up a storm.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Mikael Wood mikael.wood@latimes.com Twit­ter: @mikaelwood

Strik­ing Matches, song­writ­ers for the TV show “Nashville,” heat up the Mint.

Strik­ing Matches ar­rived at the Mint with no short­age of heat.

Formed af­ter Sarah Zim­mer­man and Justin Davis met in a guitar class at Nashville’s Bel­mont Univer­sity, the coun­try duo sparked in­sider in­ter­est a few years ago when they landed sev­eral songs on the pop­u­lar ABC se­ries “Nashville.”

Then the young group turned heads by team­ing with T Bone Bur­nett, the vet­eran record pro­ducer, for its de­but al­bum, “Noth­ing but the Si­lence,” which came out in March as the first re­lease on the newly re­vived I.R.S. la­bel.

Now, Strik­ing Matches is on the road try­ing to turn that in­dus­try buzz into a real-world fol­low­ing. An im­pres­sive gig Wed­nes­day night – part of an Amer­i­can tour be­fore the group heads to Bri­tain for a string of con­certs there — moved the band to­ward that goal.

Which isn’t to say that Zim­mer­man and Davis are leav­ing their past be­hind.

Not long into their hour­long set, Zim­mer­man told the small but en­thu­si­as­tic crowd at the Mint about how cru­cial the “Nashville” place­ments had been to their de­vel­op­ment; it was her pre­am­ble to “Hang­ing on a Lie,” a tart kiss-off per­formed on the tele­vi­sion show by Hay­den Panet­tiere’s char­ac­ter, Juli­ette Barnes.

Later, the singers re­claimed “When the Right One Comes Along,” an el­e­gant close-har­mony bal­lad, from Scar­lett O’Con­nor and Gun­nar Scott, the make-be­lieve “Nashville” duo whose ar­ti­sanal roots-mu­sic sound closely mir­rors that of Strik­ing Matches. (With a know­ing laugh, Davis re­called play­ing the song at Nashville’s beloved Blue­bird Cafe, just as Gun­nar does in an episode of the se­ries.)

Yet Strik­ing Matches, backed for most of the show by a drum­mer and a bassist who added bar-band heft, was strong­est when it shook off that made-for-TV pol­ish, as in “Never Gonna Love Again,” which built from a steady mi­nor-key groove to a swampy blues-rock freak­out with du­el­ing elec­tric guitar so­los.

“Trou­ble Is as Trou­ble Does,” about will­ingly los­ing one’s mind with Mr. (or Mrs.) Wrong, was sim­i­larly in­tense: fierce acous­tic strum­ming over a stomp­ing hoo­te­nanny beat.

For “Miss Me More,” Zim­mer­man switched to man­dolin but hardly soft­ened her at­tack, slash­ing at the small stringed in­stru­ment as though she were pun­ish­ing it. And she and Davis both kicked up a storm in an as­sured, break­neck run through Eric Clap­ton and Cream’s adap­ta­tion of Robert John­son’s blues stan­dard “Cross­roads.” .

Even “Miss­ing You Tonight” and “Make a Liar Out of Me” — hand­some, tightly com­posed pop tunes that on the band’s al­bum chan­nel the sen­sual thrum of late-’70s Fleet­wood Mac — felt ap­peal­ingly rowdy here, seem­ingly li­able to fall apart at any mo­ment.

That the songs held to­gether was, of course, an in­di­ca­tion of Strik­ing Matches’ highly schooled pro­fes­sion­al­ism. The duo’s trick was mak­ing you for­get about that.

Rick Loomis Los An­ge­les Times

JUSTIN DAVIS

and Sarah Zim­mer­mann, who have penned songs for “Nashville,” turn their per­for­mance at the Mint into a hoo­te­nanny.

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