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Friday, 1 June 2018

Matthews’ Southern Comfort “Matthews’ Southern Comfort” 1969 UK Folk Rock,Country Rock


Matthews’ Southern Comfort “Matthews’ Southern Comfort” 1969 UK Folk Rock,Country Rock
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This UK band was formed by former Fairport Convention singer/guitarist Iain Matthews (b. Ian Matthew McDonald, 16 June 1946, Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, England), and was named after his 1969 debut for MCA Records. Comprising Matthews, Mark Griffiths (guitar), Carl Barnwell (guitar), Gordon Huntley (pedal steel guitar), Andy Leigh (bass) and Ray Duffy (drums), the newly formed band signed to EMI Records. The unit’s country-tinged sound proved to be an excellent forum for Matthews’ songwriting talents. In the summer of 1970, their second album, Second Spring reached the UK Top 40 and was followed by a winter chart-topper, ‘Woodstock’. Joni Mitchell wrote the single as a tribute to the famous festival that she had been unable to attend. Already issued as a single in a hard rocking vein by Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young, it was a surprise UK number 1 for Matthews Southern Comfort. Unfortunately, success was followed by friction within the band and, two months later, Matthews announced his intention to pursue a solo career. One more album followed after which the band truncated their name to Southern Comfort. After two further albums, they disbanded in the summer of 1972…..allmusic….~


Originally released in 1969, Matthews’ Southern Comfort was Ian Matthews’ first album after leaving Fairport Convention. Although many Fairport personnel appear here (i.e. Richard Thompson, Simon Nicol, and Ashley Hutchings), for his new band Matthews distanced himself from the pure English folk rock of Fairport, preferring instead to explore a more American breed of song writing—being made popular at the time by bands like the Byrds and Bob Dylan—as well as provide a stage for his own compositions, including “Please Be My Friend” and “Thoughts For A Friend”. The group would soon go on to have a massive hit with their version of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”. Gatefold LP with lyrics!…~
Having always been partial to Ian Matthews era Fairport Convention, I remember being more than elated upon the discovery of his prolific solo career. From 1969 to 1972 he managed to release at least seven LPs as a solo artist and member of Matthews’ Southern Comfort and Plainsong. In many ways his debut is only partly a solo outing. Help from his fellow Fairporters Simon Nicol and Richard Thompson create an overall feel that is not far removed from the first two FC albums. But while a few tracks such as “Commercial Proposition” and “A Castle Far” sound like top-quality leftovers from his former band, a distinctive Matthews sound was certainly emerging. This is especially evident in the country leanings (hinted at in the first two FC records) that are much more pronounced and tastefully accentuated by Gordon Huntley’s steel guitar playing. 

Surprisingly the album does not suffer much from Matthews’ minimal writing contributions as co-producer Steve Barbly provides excellent material in “Fly Pigeon Fly,” “Sweet Bread” and the agonizingly plaintive “I’ve Lost You.” But Ian does deliver some exceptional writing in the steel-guitar-driven “Please Be my Friend” and the irresistible folk epic (co-written by Barbly) “Once Upon a Lifetime.” 

What makes this album so timeless and enjoyable is the way it explores country music without deliberately trying to be country—a highly commendable feat that many American bands were not able to achieve. Free from any phony southern twang, Ian’s fragile, emotionally-charged vocals enrich every song with a genuineness that is perfectly complemented by the warm, rural landscape that’s successfully captured by the band. Not only is this one of the first British country-rock records, but it is also an unrecognized benchmark for the entire then-burgeoning genre. BGO has made this available on CD as a twofer which includes MSC’s slightly less impressive sophomore effort Second Spring….Rising Storm review….~



Matthews was originally the lead vocalist for English folk-rock band Fairport Convention. Their first album, where his presence was most prominent, was heavily influenced by American folk-rock. By the time of What We Did On Our Holidays, his singing partner Judy Dyble had been replaced by Sandy Denny, a much stronger presence in the band, and Matthews’ role had diminished. He had left by the time of their third album as they moved towards traditional English folk music. 
When he started his career as a solo singer-songwriter, as was expected he further explored the American side of folk-rock that Fairport were themselves moving away from. Matthews’ Southern Comfort could be seen as a one of the first glimpses of the American country-rock movement to appear in Britain. The American flavours were found in the arrangements and instrumentation, rather than any phony persona put on by Matthews - he managed to fuse his country-rock stylistic preferences with his own gentle, fragile vocals to produce a unique sound. Songs were written by both Matthews and co-producer Steve Barlby, and among the musicians backing him were pedal steel guitarist Gordon Huntley, ex-bandmates Simon Nicol, Richard Thompson and Ashley Hutchings (Thompson also gave him the song “A Commercial Propostion”) and drummer Gerry Conway (who would also play with Sandy Denny’s Fotheringay, and join Fairport himself in 1998)…..~



Credits 
Bass Guitar – Ashley Hutchings 
Drums, Congas, Tambourine – Gerry Conway 
Electric Guitar – Simon Nicol 
Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar – Richard Thompson 
Flute – Pol Palmer* 
Organ [Flute] – Dolly Collins (tracks: A3) 
Other [Finger Symbols] – Marc Ellington 
Piano, Organ [Hammond] – Roger Coulam 
Steel Guitar [Fuzz] – Pete Wilsher* (tracks: A1) 
Steel Guitar [Pedal] – Gordon Huntley 
Vocals – Ian Matthews*





Tracklist 
A1 Colorado Springs Eternal
A2 A Commercial Proposition
A3 The Castle Far
A4 Please Be My Friend
A5 What We Say
A6 Dream Song
B1 Fly Pigeon Fly
B2 The Watch
B3 Sweet Bread
B4 Thoughts For A Friend
B5 I’ve Lost You
B6 Once Upon A Lifetime 

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