Matt Dudman: POA
Song List: Every Lonesome Night, My Louisiana Home, One Short Year, Everyone Knew It But Me, They Cut Down the Old Pine Tree, Let Me Be a Souvenir, How Will I Explain About You, The Kind of Blues, My Main Trial Is Yet to Come, Whitlow Junction, Johnny and Lulu, Thinking of Home, Brave and Trembling Motorman, No Reason to Cry, Swinging a Nine Pound Hammer, The River Is Risin’.
When I asked Matt what “POA” meant in the title, I was intrigued to learn that it’s part of the scientific name for bluegrass. It’s a hardy type of grass with strong roots, and Matt and his fellow musicians have certainly given their bluegrass plenty of nutrients for strong roots and spreading stems. Joining Matt on this landmark solo album are some of California’s truest bluegrass roots players: Sandy Rothman (a bona vide Bluegrass Boy who played with Bill Monroe), Ed Neff on fiddle, David Putnam on lead vocals and guitar, Pat Flory on vocals and guitar, and Paul Squyres on vocals and guitar. Matt of course adds his own vocals and a very crisp and vibrant mandolin sound.
One side of the liner notes includes pictures of Matt with all of his fellow musicians from different years and band configurations. The songs are a musical scrapbook with a view into the classic instrumentation, vocal harmonies, and themes of classic bluegrass. Matt joined Paul Squyres in the band Tall Timber in 1998, and four of Paul’s songs are featured. “Every Lonesome Night” begins with Matt’s strong mandolin lead and the sound is carefully recorded to make each note resound. Sandy, Matt, and Paul have a blended, robust trio sound that appears throughout the collection, and Ed’s fiddle adds a touch of zest that propels the song. “The River Is Risin’” is another one of Paul’s songs, and the gospel quartet blend has some wonderful bass and tenor parts that make the song exceptional. “No Reason To Cry” has that lost love and lonely theme and mournful fiddle that adds to emotion.
Ed’s fiddle and Sandy’s banjo combine to give “Swinging a Nine Pound Hammer” a hard-driving bluegrass sound, and the band’s vocal trio rides the instrumental wave. Bill Monroe if of course the “father of bluegrass,” and “Everyone Knew It But Me” and “How Will I Explain About You” are two songs from his repertoire. Matt and Jake Quesenberry were the duo McRae Brothers for many years and “They Cut Down the Old Pine Tree” with its iconic cradle or coffin story and “Johnny and Lulu’s” tragic love story are memorable examples of bluegrass themes. “Whitlow Junction” is an actual place in Arkansas, and Matt’s song lets his mandolin rhythm and melodic flow shine front and center.
Forest Gump talks about life being a box of chocolates with multiple choices that delight with variety and flavor. Matt’s collection of songs is like that famous box; there’s lots of flavors to entice everyone’s taste buds!