6 String Ranch 2020
Texan six-stringer goes back to the future to uncover gems for all-time delight.
“Chop Shop” might be the title of Matt Smith’s guitar instructional book – but it also was a name of one of his ensembles, a small yet mighty one that highlighted the veteran’s versatility in terms of approach and style. Unlike the sextet featured on "The Saxon Pub" report from 2011, this record, a document of Matt’s 2013 concert at another Austin venue, focuses on a trio in which Smith is flanked by bassist Ed Friedland and drummer Bryan Austin – each shining, on solos and in interplay, in a format where there’s nothing to hide. And where’s there’s nothing to hide, there’s a lot to show off.
This is why, perhaps, the disc starts with an actual performance’s finale, the coupling of “Tough Guy” and “Tsurfin’ The Tsunami” that sways the group’s sweet instrumental swagger from romantic rumination to robust rockabilly rumble, before “Trust Yourself” sprinkles funk all over the drift letting Matt to rap and unleash a slew of jazzy licks for Ed to pull the groove to the bottom end and for Bryan to drive it across the board. Surprisingly, the same harmonic template will nicely suit the soft, if vibrant, balladry of “Shelter From The Storm” and the “Shades Of Grey” blues, revealing Peter Green’s influence on Smith’s writing, while the raga-tinged cover of “Love The One You’re With” – a staple of his repertoire – feels even more ethereal until the piece’s veins begin to bulge with tribal rhythms.
Careening to the soulful side of things, the trio’s take on “Rainy Night In Georgia” becomes a display for their telepathic abilities and for Matt’s pipes as his vocals run the gamut from velvet deep to celestially high, whereas the band’s reading of “I Feel Good” is slowed down to taste like molasses rather than sugar and spice. But then there’s the deliciously raucous “Too Much” which quotes the “Day Tripper” riff and the filigree “Smell My Mandolin” which seems to incorporate “Can’t Buy Me Love” – another source of Smith’s inspiration.
It’s one of those concerts that go with the “I wish I was there” tagline yet, given this artist’s habit of constant change, there’s no doubt his next appearance on a stage near you will be just as riveting.