Folk Blues

With 3 years since Scott Matthews' critically lauded folk-blues debut, 'Passing Stranger', the thought that he (or his record label) had waited a little too long to release follow-up album 'Elsewhere' must have been present among the not-quite-sell-out crowd at the Bloomsbury Theatre. Matthews showed no signs of such nervousness as he took his solitary position on the guitar-littered stage, daubed in a nonchalant 'kidult' uniform of jeans and checked shirt, greeting the audience in a manner one would adopt when seeing old school friends in at an informal reunion at the local pub.

Launching into a set equally loaded songs old and new, it wasn't the showcasing of his prodigious musical talent that held the audience's attention throughout, but Matthews' between-songs banter and jocular repartee, delivered in his West Country accent that invited everyone present inside his own little world on stage. A personable performer, there were no pretensions or delusions of grandeur, after the discussing the rock and roll merits of consuming milk on stage, one member of the audience ran and got him a beer, followed by a round of applause.

It's hard to describe Matthews' music without using the term 'ethereal'; his extensive vocal range and his ability to go from a baritone snarl to a trembling falsetto all in the same line, draw obvious comparisons with the late, great Jeff Buckley, including his dextrous skill in mastering the fingerboard. Indeed, as his soaring voice followed his fingers' arpeggios and impossibly pretty melodies that danced around his guitar's neck, he sounded like a rebel angel fallen from the heavens into the purgatory of rock and roll. It is this voice, coupled with his innovative finger-picking style that separates him from the other armies of 'have guitar, will travel' folkies sprawled amongst the scene. His songs are generally solid, with flashes of brilliance, such as the fragile delicacy of 'Eyes Are Wider Than Before', yet is their genuine delivery that elevates them above the rest and will hopefully see Matthews leading the folk-blues scene for some time to come.

Saving his signature tune, 'Elusive' for the end, a hauntingly simple paean to doomed love that has that special unexplainable something that hooks the listener from beginning to end, Matthews then encored with a casual yet beautiful rendition of Bob Marley's 'Is This Love'. His ability to mould such a simple melody into a maelstrom of emotion, careful licks of his guitar interspersed amongst octave-breaking vocal stretches was nothing other than...oh, screw it, ethereal.