Moonshine Matinee - Two Nineteen
Record Label: None (free download)
Release Date: March 30, 2010
Gather ‘round the campfire, children, because John Rowland is back with some new tunes, and he’d like you to take a listen. You might know Rowland as the frontman of the folk band Dorsey; if you don’t, you’d best get acquainted with them if you want to be my friend. But this is not a Dorsey release we’re talking about here. It’s an EP courtesy of Rowland’s new act, Moonshine Matinee. Nifty name, I know. So, how does this EP, Two Nineteen, stack up? Unsurprisingly, these six songs are certainly worth a listen.
Things start off familiar enough with “The Mysterious Disappearance (Jesse James),” a full band folk song with a nice outlaw analogy: “But if you’re going to rob trains than you rob ‘em like Jesse James. / ‘Cause thieves with grace are men with nothing to shame.” Next up is “Wrong Most of the Time,” and it signals a change by solidifying the piano’s place on the EP. Unlike Rowland’s previous work, these songs are led by piano keys, not acoustic strumming. The piano’s prominence, combined with other artistic choices, create an old-time feeling that your grandparents could appreciate. But if you’re looking for an excuse to boogie, the pace picks up considerably with “Dr. I’m Alright,” a jazzy number inspired by New Orleans flavor. It gives the EP a well-timed kick in the pants, but a production misstep makes the horns sound somewhat grating to the ear, something dancers won’t appreciate.
Closing out Two Nineteen are the bluesy “Mississippi Angel,” which features fantastic, deep toned guitar, and “Annie Come Back Home.” The light touch of a fiddle and soothing female backing vocals (“bah bah oooh”) make “Annie Come Back Home” sound like something you’d hear coming over AM radio waves during Depression-era America.
My fear is that you may be spooked away by some phrases used in this writing, namely “old-time feeling” and “Depression-era America.” Don’t go running away, just square this with yourself: this isn’t trendy new music. It was made by those with a fondness for music history, and it’s refreshing to hear a band trying on the hats of musicians from different genres, regions, and timeframes to create something new. This is Americana, this is country, this is the blues: “There’s no silver screen, and this ain’t Hollywood.”