Matthews’ Southern Comfort (self-titled)

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.

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“Once Upon A Lifetime”

:D CD Reissue | 1996 | Beat Goes on | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Decca | search ebay ]

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  • Louder than Milk

    Plainsong’s album In Search Of Amelia Earhart is a beauty. Even The Guiding Light should have been a hit and includes a great cover of the Yester / Henske classic Raider. Andy Roberts adds a special touch with some tasteful guitar. The CD re-issue of it looks like it includes the requisite “unreleased 2nd album” and bonus tracks with covers of such artists as Farina and Hartford amongst others. Must check that one out. Thanks for jolting my memory on the under appreciated Iain Matthews.

  • Stranger

    Thanks for the comment! You’re right, Robets guitar touches are great. The CD of Plainsong is definitely worth getting…includes the entire 1st and 2nd albums and other good extras…Matthews was always covering interesting material… G. Clark, Paul Siebel, J.Winchester, Haggard list goes on…

  • Mathew’s Southern Comfort! YEAH!! I agree about Second Spring as a whole– but I must admit that I adore the tune “Something In The Way She Moves” from it. Anyways, great post!

    -Jody and When You Awake

  • thank you for uncovering these wonderful gems.

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