Sometime in the ’70’s I found myself at a local Folk Club in Portsmouth sitting next to a man in dusty clothes with a battered suitcase and even more battered hat who looked like he’d come in out of the rain. I didn’t think he would be sitting in the lounge bar long once the concert had started but I was wrong. He stayed for all the floor-spots and the guest stars appearance too. He only stood up when the star guest was announced – at which point he opened that battered case, took out an even more battered guitar, and proceeded to blow us all away with his songs and guitar playing.
Jump forward four decades and I’m sitting in a crowded room at Bonn Folk Club in 2014 when a similar thing happens. This time though it’s not raining outside and I’m a wiser (older) man. There are people who look like they’ve seen the World in x-ray. Seen through the things we take at face value. Find a way to say what we think before we even realised we were thinking it.
I bought the debut CD by Matthew Robb after that first encounter in Bonn. Bought it at the same time as the latest from Van Morrison and a couple of other trendy musicians at the time. I didn’t play any of the others much though. The Man in the battered hat with the battered guitar’s CD always got the vote. Something hypnotic, something of Bob Dylan with his ability to write songs that hit you in the gut.
Matthew Robb’s new CD is more focussed than the first one. The dirty old Mill Town in ‘Valley Of Stone’ could be the town that Ewan Maccoll deplored in 1956. The hydraulic Fracking mentioned in ‘Common Destiny’ wasn’t even in existence when Maccoll was writing, but would have been on his lyrical bucket-list I’m sure. More focus then, but Robb still manages to deliver those blows to the solar plexus.
Robb’s most memorable song to date was a surprising omission from the debut release, but ‘Dead Men Have No Dreams’ is on the new one and still the best encapsulation of what Matthew Robb’s music is all about. A nihilistic world where everything is shot to hell and everyone in it beyond redemption.
Matthew Robb is a world-weary chronicler of the fall of mankind. Tom Waits meets Bob Dylan and decides everything is shot to Hell. Robb describes his Father as “a ragged man with an old guitar, picking out the notes so clean” (‘Dead Men Have No Dreams’). Maybe it was his father I saw all those years ago at the Railway Folk Club in Portsmouth? Or maybe it was Robb himself. He has the aura of someone who has been putting that battered hat down on beer-stained bar counters for generations to take out that (always) battered guitar and lay bare his observations simply and hypnotically.
I already know this disc is going to get prime time on my music player. I also know that Matthew Robb is not going to be a superstar overnight, he’s more the tortoise than the hare. Tortoises though have a habit of coming out on top.
The new disc ‘Dead Men Have No Dreams’ will be available soon. See the MATTHEW ROBB WEBSITE for more details.