Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Matty Charles Live at Pete’s Candy Store, Brooklyn NY 3/23/08

“Are you following the presidential race?” Matty Charles asked the crowd who’d filled the tables in the little back room at Pete’s.

Silence.

“I kind of like this Obama guy,” he admitted. More silence. This was white Williamsburg, 2008, after all, strictly Republican territory, if these people vote at all.

“The thing that impresses me is that he can actually speak…that’s something we should require of all our politicians,” deadpanned Charles. He went on to give Obama credit for not reducing his response to the tempest-in-a-teapot over Rev. Jeremiah Wright to a soundbite. “Even if it ends up derailing him,” he added somberly. Then Charles played a catchy, oldtimey new song that sounded straight out of the Woody Guthrie catalog, a familiar-sounding, upbeat broadside about the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer and still paying all the taxes. But it ended as a resounding call for the people who “pick the apples that make this apple pie” to get up and do something about it. A song like this coul have come across as strident, but delivered in Charles’ warm, laid-back baritone, effortlessly fingerpicked on his acoustic guitar, it had a ring of authenticity.

If memory serves right, Charles and his band the Valentines took over the weekly Sunday residency that Rev. Vince Anderson had held for what seems like ages back in the late 90s and early zeros. Since then he’s been all over the place and back again and tonight he was back, for sure. A weekly residency can be a blessing – regular gigs keep your chops fresh and give you a chance to work up a lot of material over a relatively short period of time, but they can also be a curse because they drag on your fan base. Conventional wisdom to the contrary, New Yorkers, especially the newer arrivals, tend not to be the most adventurous types. Most of us will go out to see a friend’s band, others go because a band reputedly draws cute girls (or boys), but counting on a fan base to populate a club week after week is tough. But Charles has that fan base, and he’s earned it. Americana is his thing, veering to the oldtimey, folk side of country: he’s been compared to Guy Clark, but he’s a better singer and a considerably better songwriter, somebody who would rhyme “screw ya” with “hallelujah” as he did tonight. Jack Grace is probably a better comparison, although whiskey doesn’t figure as prominently in Charles’ songwriting, and he doesn’t milk the crowd for laughs. As with his vocals, the humor in his songs is completely casual, like the story he told tonight about going into what turned out to be a drug deli on Williamsburg’s south side back in the day when such places were everywhere, looking for a beer, but finding only milk in the store’s cooler.

That this site has been up now for almost a year and Charles hasn’t been reviewed here until now is, to be blunt, kind of stupid. There. It’s been done. You should go see him sometime: lately he’s been at Pete’s every Sunday at 8:30 and has a new album coming out next month. If the songs he played tonight are any indication, it’ll be as good as his last one.

March 23, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment