April 8, 2004

The Sound Barrier

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You’d be surprised at how difficult is to come up with a new opening line for this column each week. And, since I dislike things that tend to be related to work or effort, I’ve opted for a sort of “choose your own adventure” approach. Here’s how it works: I’m going to type “insert clever opening sentence here” and you folks get to choose your own terrific opening line from the comfort of your favorite armchair! It could be serious, humorous, whatever. Ok, ready? Here we go: INSERT CLEVER OPENING SENTENCE HERE. Ok, I hope your opening turned out well. Now continue reading as if nothing had ever happened (it’ll be our little secret). Anyway, as a respected music journalist with a weekly column read by an estimated 6.3 loyal readers around the globe, fans often approach me seeking autographs, romance advice, fashion tips, toenail clippers, etc. And the question I’m asked most often is “Matt, lord of the ladies, can you recommend some great new music for me to check out?” The answer is, “Of course I can! I’m Matt Gewolb, music columnist and love God! And recommending great new music by lesser known artists is part of my job description.” Now, you may be familiar with some of the bands and musicians I’m about to talk about. But I’d bet my last (insert something funny and/or clever here) there’s something new for everyone. First up is the earnest Canadian songsmith Ron Sexsmith — who, incidentally, has a brand new album out this week. Think Nick Drake but with a little Elvis Costello bounce thrown in to spice things up. Another singer/songwriter you really can’t afford to miss is Josh Ritter. Acclaimed in Ireland, but a virtual unknown stateside, Mr. Ritter combines a Dylan-esque lyrical poetry with ethereal melodies and wonderfully stirring arrangements. Pick up his new album (Hello Starling) first and work your way backwards. Permit me one more singer/songwriter type in this little guide: Martin Sexton. A soulful singer and guitarist, Mr. Sexton has a terrific back catalogue and his work is equally informed by R&B legends as by folk pioneers. All his work is excellent but you’ll want to start with the heartbreakingly beautiful album The American. When you finish with Mr. Sexton, you’ll want to move on to an even more melancholic and contemplative singer and instrumentalist. Samuel Beam, who goes by Iron and Wine, has just released the stunningly solemn Our Endless Numbered Days: a perfect listen for those dark rainy day moods. Now, to get you out of those dark doldrums, you’re going to want to spin the newest solo effort from Old 97’s front man Rhett Miller. The melodies on The Instigator are absolutely contagious. And it’s unlikely that any contemporary artist writes better pure power pop songs than Mr. Miller. Then you can move on to the Old 97’s material. But that’s down the road. And that, I’m afraid, is all the room we have today. Until then, INSERT CLEVER ENDING HERE!

Archived article by Matt Gewolb
Red Letter Daze Staff Writer