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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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Event calendar
Saturday, Mar 23, 2019


MUSIC

Earthshare NJ Rocks @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

GEORGE & BRENDA'S ANNIVERSARY BASH @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 12:00pm


LIONEL RICHIE @ Hard Rock Live Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm

Brute Force & Daughter of Force @ Randy Nows Man Cave, Bordentown - 8:00pm

Diva Moments @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 7:30pm

Janet Gardner LIVE at DingBatz @ Dingbatz, Clifton - 7:00pm

Family Matinee: Tito and the Birds @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 4:30pm

Kashmir: The Live Led Zeppelin Experience @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 8:00pm

Dvořák | Liebermann | Mazzoli @ Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, Princeton - 8:00pm

TEN (TRIBUTE TO PEARL JAM) @ Starland Ballroom, Sayreville - 7:00pm

THE GREEN PLANET BAND at LIBERTY TAVERN! @ LIBERTY TAVERN, Staten Island - 6:00pm


Panama Dead @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Mamma Mia @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Native Gardens @ Eagle Theatre, Hammonton - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

The Source by Jack Canfora @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

Sassy Mamas presented by Dunbar Repertory Company @ Middletown Arts Center, Middletown - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

New Jersey Theatre Alliance's Stages Festival @ WheatonArts, Millville - 2:00pm

CURIOUS GEORGE: THE GOLDEN MEATBALL @ The Growing Stage: The Childrens Theatre of New Jersey, Netcong - 4:00pm

FINDING NEVERLAND @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies @ Victoria Theater @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 2:00pm and 7:00pm

Ken Ludwigs The Gods of Comedy @ Matthews Theatre @ McCarter Theatre, Princeton - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Theo @ Marion Huber Theater @ Two River Theater, Red Bank - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

A Man and His Prostate with Ed Asner @ Jay & Linda Grunin Center For The Arts At Ocean County College, Toms River - 2:00pm


COMEDY

Brian Regan @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm


DANCE

Sensory Friendly Theatre: NJ Ballet's SLEEPING BEAUTY @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 2:00pm


KIDS

HudsonWay Immersion Camp FREE FAMILY DAY @ HudsonWay Immersion School, Stirling - 12:00pm

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