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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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State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze on Friday, December 7 at 8:00pm, Saturday, December 8 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sunday, December 9 at 2:00pm. Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a division of Cirque du Soleil, has become a critically acclaimed, state-of-the-art Broadway musical, and a fun-filled, holiday family show. Tickets range from $35-$98.
NJSO presents 2019 Winter Festival, 'Music Speaks'
(NEWARK, NJ) -- A trio of renowned guest artists with distinct musical voices—pianists Emanuel Ax and Daniil Trifonov and soprano Dawn Upshaw—headline the NJSO’s Winter Festival, “Music Speaks,” in January 2019. The Orchestra’s signature artistic event takes place across three weekends, January 10–27, in six New Jersey venues.
RVCC Chorale to Perform Annual Holiday Concert on December 8th
(BRANCHBURG, NJ) --The RVCC Chorale will give its annual holiday concert on Saturday, December 8 at 8:00pm in the Welpe Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College’s Branchburg campus. The program will feature Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata, Das Neugeborne Kindelein, as well as a cappella pieces from by Sergei Rachmaninov, Zoltan Kodaly and Giuseppe Verdi. The program also will include an audience singalong of traditional carols.
Classic Stones Live! The Complete Rolling Stones Tribute Show Comes To SOPAC
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- The Rolling Stones, the greatest Blues band of all time, couldn’t make it to SOPAC on their 2018 tour. Instead, the acclaimed tribute band Classic Stones Live! makes an appearance on the SOPAC stage December 15 at 8:00pm for those who like to hear their Rolling Stones hits live.
Tony Trischka Presents "Of a Winter's Night" at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Of a Winter’s Night is Tony Trischka's acoustic celebration of the holiday season. Based on his CD release of the same name, this concert features Trischka’s considerable melodic inventiveness on a wide variety of seasonal tunes. He turns his inventiveness loose on bluegrass and Americana music for the holidays. This one of a kind concert will take place at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship on Saturday, December 8 at 7:30pm.


"An Amazing Musical Genius!" Brian Wilson LIVE! at the State Theatre
In the music room in the back of our house, there’s an electric bass and amp, two acoustic guitars, a microphone and PA speakers, several pieces of music recording equipment, and a bookcase filled with books on music, not to mention a slew of assorted music memorabilia. But, perhaps, one of the most highly prized items in the room is hanging directly above the piano next to the college music diplomas.
Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.
Sha Na Na LIVE! at the Newton Theatre
The audience is streaming into the Newton Theatre auditorium in Newton, NJ this Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 for a live concert starring Sha Na Na!










Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


MUSIC

New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


THEATRE

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm







DANCE

PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


FILM

Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

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