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Makin Waves’ Record of the Week:
Matt Witte’s ‘Ol' Boy’


originally published: 01/12/2018

Makin Waves’ Record of the Week: Matt Witte’s ‘Ol' Boy’

Makin Waves’ Record of the Week: Matt Witte’s ‘Ol' Boy’

Exceptional Manasquan-raised, Brooklyn-based guitar-pickin’ storyteller Matt Witte delivers a powerful self-released 10-song solo outing, “Ol’ Boy,” which will be celebrated Jan. 12 at Roxy & Dukes in Dunellen. 

 

Murder … mutilation … torture … fallen angels … pacts with the devil … the decay of one’s soul and the city that encompasses it. These sound like the subjects of a death metal band, right? Or at least Hank Williams III.

Like Hank III, Matt Witte has told truths, tales and tall tales about these topics for 20 years along a trail of broken hearts and dreams, but in such a charming, witty, well-rooted way that the effect somehow is much more fascinating than disturbing. Whether solo or in such bands as Coach ’N Commando, Chainsaw Trio or New Blood Revival, Witte’s richly developed and achingly vulnerable characters are like anti-heroes whom you can’t help but love even though they often can be despicable. Once again, his latest solo effort, the self-released 10-song “Ol’ Boy,” brims with great bad guys right from the get-go with the circus-sounding opening track, “Old Brains,” a painful but soulful look at a couple failing to grow old gracefully or with each other’s love intact.

After presenting Witte in the roots-rockin’ two-piece Coach ’N Commando twice last quarter, I’m happy to see that he mixes things up by continuing to put out solo albums. “Ol’ Boy” is similar to Coach ’N Commando’s approach to Hank Williams-, Rev. Gary Davis- and Junior Kimbrough-inspired country-blues, but with less of the Hank III raucous raunchiness and frantic fingerpicking and more introspection and folk foundation. 

Another favorite track is “Bedtime for Bozos,” perhaps a toxic musical update of the 1951 comedy “Bedtime for Bonzo,” but with Donald Trump in the lead instead of Ronald Reagan. With a haunting Mexicali beat, the grisly tune examines the mounting threat of a growing pack of wolves.

Even more harrowing is the fuzzy tale of child abuse and sibling murder in “Ol’ Boy, Old Rope.” Yet, like Witte’s playing in so many of his songs, an absorbing mix of clean picking and disturbing distortion lifts the macabre, morose immorality play up from the depths of Witte’s dark, lyrical soul. 

“Back from the Dead” recounts how life can turn you into a zombie if you let it. A soft, simple country accompaniment sounds like how the aching hollow within the protagonist’s bones must feel. The same feeling permeates the regret expressed in “Sometimes the Devil Gets Inside,” about unforgivable anger when love is on the line, and “Angel Plays Dirty,” a harmonica-driven she done ’em wrong that turns that devil inside into dust. The Clapton-like slide and Dylanesque melody of the instrumental “King and Queen of the Gutter” also impresses. 

Most like Coach ’N Commando are the exceptional, bloodcurdling spaghetti western “3 Days Out and Time to Kill,” whose horse-hoof beat is brilliant, and “The Fly!,” what would have been a tasty chicken-pickin’ nugget about infidelity if it wasn’t marred by a warped track of a female opera singer interspersed throughout. I’m also somewhat disappointed in the lackluster performance of the Williams’ masterpiece “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” I’ve seen Witte perform this tune live a couple of times to much greater effect, but then that was with Coach ’N Commando, so maybe it’s just in keeping with “Ol’ Boy” as a more mellow affair.

John Swayne, Witte’s drummer for 20 years, makes a hefty contribution to the solo outing, as do Silverclouds vocalist-bassist Daniel Pena, Fatty Lumpkin/Om Trio bassist Pete Novembre, Mad Doctors drummer Greg Hanson, and Kentucky-based guitarist Tom Blankenship. Whether they will be backing him or not remains to be seen, but Witte will celebrate the release of “Ol’ Boy” on Jan. 12 at Roxy & Dukes in Dunellen with The Fermenters, Secret Admirers and Giant Flying Turtles also on the bill. 

Bob Makin is the reporter for www.MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at makinwaves64@yahoo.com. Like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.





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White Eagle Hall Presents Mason Jennings
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- White Eagle Hall presents Mason Jennings on Sunday, September 16 at 7:00pm. Jennings is touring in support of his latest album, Songs From When We Met, which was released earlier this year.  Tickets are $20.
Pioneer Productions Presents Wendy-Lane Bailey Women's Work
(DENVILLE, NJ) -- Pioneer Productions kicks off its new Living Room Series with Women’s Work - an evening of songs by female songwriters on September 16 at 6:00pm at the Arthur Murray Studios in Denville. Conceived and performed by singer/storyteller Wendy-Lane Bailey & composer/pianist Michele Brourman it has a funny, sometimes challenging but always defiantly feminine viewpoint that brings the worlds of Broadway, pop, and country together in one show.
Stone Pony To Honor Butch Pielka
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Victor Wainwright & The Train To Perform At Lizzie Rose Music Room
(TUCKERTON, NJ) -- The Lizzie Rose Music Room presents Victor Wainwright and the Train on Wednesday, August 22 at 7:30pm. A 3 time BMA Piano Award winner,  BB KING Entertainer of the Year Award Winner, and Band of the Year Award winner, Victor Wainwright is at the top of his game right now.  The band is touring in support of their latest record, The Train, on Ruf Records. Tickets are 30 in advance and $35 at the door.
State Theatre presents Lost 80's Live
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80's Tribute Band Almost Journey Rocks iPlay America
I never in a million years would have thought about iPlay America in Freehold as being an event venue. To me, it's a place to ride bumper cars, have kids' birthday parties and play video games. Never been there.
The Great Rock N Roll Time Machine LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
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A light summer rain is falling outside Englewood, NJ’s BergenPAC this Wednesday July 25, 2018, as music lovers decked out in peace signs, tie-dyed shirts, and bell-bottomed jeans arrive for tonight’s Hippiefest concert event starring Vanilla Fudge, Rick Derringer, Mitch Ryder, and Badfingers’ Joey Molland.










Event calendar
Tuesday, Aug 21, 2018


MUSIC

MEG BERRY / ROB CONNOLLY @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

Quiksilver & Sea.Hear.Now present: Fishbone @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

The Pierce Sessions @ Pierce Memorial Presbyterian Church, Farmingdale - 7:30pm

Agent Orange @ The Stanhope House, Stanhope - 6:00pm


THEATRE

Saturday Night Fever @ Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

The Lion In Winter @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 8:00pm






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