Iain Matthews, or Ian, first gained attention as an early member of the seminal English folk/rock band Fairport Convention. After leaving the band in 1969, he formed Matthews Southern Comfort and had a hit with Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” During the mid-1970’s he began a solo career and had another American hit single in 1978 with “Shake It.”
While he faded from the spotlight in the United States, he remained active in the studio and on the road in his home country. His recent release, The Art Of Obscurity, created some renewed interest in his music. Now two of his previous albums have been released in the United States for the first time.
Joy Mining was originally issued in 2008 and introduced a new direction for his music. The first forty years of his career found him producing a fusion of rock and folk with some excursions into a pop sound. Joy Mining finds him providing the vocals for a jazz group; the Searing Quartet, which is fronted by multi-instrumentalist Egbert Derix.
Matthews and Derix co-wrote all 12 of the tracks. They are an odd couple who have very different approaches to music. Mathews is a lyricist from a folk background and Derix is a jazz musician. When they combine their talents, it ends up as an odd but effective hybrid of sound.
It is a laid back album where the music just washes over you. The melodies and lyrics for such tracks as “St. Theresa’s Ghost,” “Randolph Scott,” “The Solid Stuff,” and “Shakespeare’s Typewriter” are melodic and distinct but do not intrude upon each other.
The Dutch backing band of pianist Derix, saxophonist Peter Hermesdorf, bassist Norbert Leurs, and drummer Sjoerd Rutten are a tight unit and form the most unique backing band of Matthews career.
Iain Matthews has taken the road less traveled with Joy Mining. By pushing himself to explore a new musical direction, he produced a unique album that is one of the best of his career.