As heard on TV, only better
The real-life songwriting duo behind some tunes in television’s ‘Nashville’ stomps up a storm.
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.
and Sarah Zimmermann, who have penned songs for “Nashville,” turn their performance at the Mint into a hootenanny.