Matt Andersen-Big Man on the move

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Story:Lenny Stoute

As Mr. Young reminds us, rust never sleeps and it’s easy to think the same of Matt Andersen. The New Brunswick bluesman is a veteran road warrior who plays an average 200 dates a year during which he draws on a catalogue six albums deep. Among the 16 outdoor festivals Andersen played this year was the prestigious Glastonbury Festival, a huge deal in the UK and Europe, during which he played two spots.

Awards? He’s won a few; the Memphis International Blues Challenge, two Maple Blues Awards and another pair form the ECMA. As well, he’s a frequent performer at Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Café shows across Canada since 2009.

Still no bells ringing, right? No worries if you’ve never heard of the guy. He’s heard it all before. It’s all there in the opening track to Andersen’s new album, Coal Mining Blues. “ I Don’t Wanna Give In”, a steady rollin’ slice of southern fried boogie, with a side of the country grits needed to make things happen for you.

It’s also the reason why this current album spreads the net of audience appeal the widest of any previous Andersen collection. Known for a solid grasp of the blues and folk musics, despite its title Coal Mining Blues is Andersen’s most countrified effort to date. This speaks of the need to reach higher career ground and the Big Blues Man’s just fine with that.

“ The way this album came together was very special because there were some very talented people involved. How I work, when I sit down to write an album I know exactly what kind of songs I want and how they will sound. I don’t fuss over songs much. I just write what I have in mind, keep the ones that sound good together and then I go off and record them. I don’t usually have leftover songs.

“ I had in mind a high quality album that would reach out to a broad base of fans and that’s what I have here”.

Indeed. Produced and recorded by Colin Linden at Levon Helm’s Woodstock NY studio, The Barn, and with Levon’s rising star daughter Amy and the legendary Garth Hudson guesting, the quality’s guaranteed. As befitting a road warrior, tunes are split between the uptempo times on the road and the slower ballads, reflective of the comedown and chilling out of being off the road.

“ I basically went in there with the songs and everyone just did their part. I’ve been following Colin (Linden)’s work for a long time and when I finally got to work with him, it went just like I thought. He really knows how to get the best out of every song”.

You may have already heard first single “Fired Up” which acquaints you with the blues rockin’ side of the album. If you’re a fan, savour it, since when you go to catch Andersen on his current national tour, the version you hear will be quite different, That’s on account of this time around, he’s bringing it stripped down, acoustic style, just a bluesman and his guitars.

“ At this point I like playing solo best; to me getting a song across is about making a personal connection. I have more control over that as a solo, very important when you’re doing new material. When I do this kind of show I go for a relaxed, playing in the living room feel “.

Coal Mining Blues dropped September 20, Andersen celebrating with a Winnipeg gig which served as an opener for his 40 date cross-country tour ending on the Atlantic coast in November.

Check stubbyfingers.ca for tour deets.