Matt Sowell


So many great records seem to have been born out of the folk nexus of 1,000 Incarnations of The Rose, the festival that brought together a wealth of classic fingerpicked talent like Peter Lang, Max Ochs, and Peter Walker with the more recent luminaries Glenn Jones, Marisa Anderson, Daniel Bachman, and Nathan Bowles. Yet what was great about the festival was that so many of the names flew much further below the horizon, letting the talent of those who’d not yet staked a reputation sit alongside revered legends. This is largely a testament to the booking of Elkhorn’s Jesse Sheppard, who’s years among players lead him to pack the three days with so many interesting players. Among the lesser known marquees lay Matt Sowell, who’d released a few low-key titles, but caught the ear of Feeding Tube during his set. A devoted union carpenter in addition to a stellar musician, the title Organize Or Die hits harder in these times of tension.

Among the weathered country blues, there’s a dissension that’s palpable through Sowell’s work. Alongside his nods to Fahey, and in turn Cotton, Patton, James and Johnson, there’s notes of Jack Rose’s intensity and Harry Tausig’s patience. There’s also a political fire that singes through the strings and stamps itself defiantly in titles like “Requiem For Democracy” and the title track. Like so many guitarists before him Sowell’s earthen medium is also a conduit for frustration, lament, and the weariness that’s laid on the American worker. It’s not all strife, though, there’s a joy that often simmers through the sadness of slide blues. The nights feel dark on Sowell’s record, but the days seem to come with an appreciation for the clear sky and the cool breeze. When a record like Organize Or Die comes your way, its a time to feel grateful for the collective spirit of folk players celebrating over three days in Maryland, and for chance meetings that lead to something that hits this hard.

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