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.
We’ve lost many rockers in recent years, but Pat was one of us. When I first heard about his passing, I instantly recalled one special night at The Strand in Lakewood. DiNizio was part of a Backstage Pass show (one that turns the theater into a listening room with the audience sitting on the stage with the artist) in which Pat played a few songs and shared stories about his life. He was very introspective that night and might have given us a special New Jersey version of his old Las Vegas show “Confessions of a Rock Star.” These were stories about growing up in New Jersey, raising a daughter after a divorce, first successes with the band, and the moment he realized he wanted to play rock and roll for the rest of his life. The show was broadcast live on our internet radio station and after searching through old hard drives, the recording was found. What follows is one night with Pat DiNizio in his own words…
Light of Day Winterfest 2018 Photos
Light of Day Concerts were held throughout Asbury Park in January and photographer John Posada was on hand to shoot many of them. We gathered about 40 of his photos for a slideshow gallery across two pages in New Jersey Stage magazine.
Featured Music Video: "Gimme Gimme Rockaway" by Steve Conte
This month's featured music video is "Gimme Gimme Rockaway" by Steve Conte.
Bongo Boy TV - January 2018
Each issue of New Jersey Stage Magazine contains an episode of Bongo Boy TV showcasing music videos from around the world.