You’ve all heard and are familiar with those popular culture questions that immediately connect your own personal memory to a historic moment in time, right? “Where were you when…?” “Do you remember when…?” And while each of us has the ability to recall moments forever etched into the annals of history, we have to consider the generational factor, where some of those moments did not impact us in real time. Take, for example, two of the most significant events in modern history: “Where were you when JFK was assassinated?” “Do you remember when we landed on the moon?” Both happened long before I was born – so the recollections of those experiencing these events in real time differ greatly from those of us whose memories are consigned solely to the images captured on old news reels.
I am a member of the “Where were you when the planes struck the Twin Towers” generation – and could only observe from afar as loved ones stateside were impacted in real time. I’ll always offer a smile when asked “Do you remember when the Habs retired Patrick Roy’s jersey?” – recalling a night in Montreal, in The Bell Centre, watching the festivities from center ice up in the nosebleeds. And lest I go off on a tangent here, bringing this conversation to the latest decade: “Do you remember when you last went to a concert before the arrival of the pandemic?” Being a music junkie, how could I possibly forget? That concert took place on the first Saturday of March 2020, with plans for another concert the following weekend – one we would never make – as Covid-19 hit North America and postponed pretty much not only shows, but ‘normal life’ indefinitely.
As for recalling that final concert before The Great Reset, yes, Team GDW spent an evening enjoying music from two Ontario-based duos at Historic Cooper’s House in Columbia, MD. Five hundred and seventy-nine trepidation-filled-and-music-starved days would pass before we mustered the courage for a return to live music after that date, and indeed, many shows and adventures have been experienced since life reverted back ‘almost’ to those care-free days. So, I’m sure you’ll understand that whilst excited to take a short drive back over to Columbia recently, there were a few palpitations when parking up outside Historic Cooper’s House almost three and a half years later. Don’t misunderstand me here – this venue is a fantastic spot for an intimate music gathering, and the owners/hosts are some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet – but it was hard to ignore those seeds of doubt asking “Do you remember when?”
Upon entering the building, any remaining concerns were vanquished – replaced by friendly faces, a warm greeting, and an invitation into the listening room. Everybody in attendance were excited to see Canadian blues artist Matt Andersen, in this rare house concert setting, performing to a room of about fifty people. “You guys are close,” Matt joked as he took his place up front. “To each other, and to me, but that’s alright.” Launching immediately into “Take Me Back,” the room filled with his booming voice, and the intricate sounds of his acoustic guitar skills. And being Matt Andersen, he endeared himself to the room long before the end of his first tune, and held us all captive for the 90-minute show that would follow.
As we have come to expect from Matt, plenty of old favorites would be performed, along with a few lesser played tunes, and more than a handful of tales, jokes, and moments that had the room erupting in laughter. “This song I wrote for a friend of mine quite a few years ago. A friend I think we’ve all had at some point in our lives, so maybe you’ve got a friend like this right now. It’s the friend that has a girlfriend that nobody likes,” he announced, prior to a performance of “I Play The Fool For You.” Allowing time for the laughter to subside, he would continue. “A few awkward stares going on around the room, but that’s okay. But just in case you’re wondering which friend it is, there’s a pretty good chance it’s you.”
Giving us a cross country tour of his musical catalogue, Matt would share the title track from his 2013 “Coal Mining Blues” album (a song he re-recorded acoustically on his 2022 “House To House” album – from which he also shared “Other Side Of Goodbye”), adding “Home Sweet Home” from the 2013 release. He also took time to reminisce about some time spent with his (then) girlfriend at her friend’s cottage and a discussion about maybe living elsewhere. “For a very brief moment, a very rare moment, I said [to her] as long as I’m with you I don’t care where we are,” he recalled. “Which turns out the only time in that relationship, that was the only time I said the right thing at the right time, so I figured I’d write a song about it.”
Matt would also make a brief visit to his most recent album, “The Big Bottle Of Joy” (one he toured with his full band earlier this year across Canada, which we caught in London, ON), and was happy to discuss how “Only An Island,” a cover version, became part of the album. “I’ve done covers before, but this is the first time that I recorded a song that someone else had written,” he commenced. “This song was from a band back home called Port Cities, a great bunch of writers, and performers, and singers, and I was on tour with them. I heard them do this song a bunch of times, I fell in love with it. I found out they never recorded it and I thought no problem kids, I’ll take your scraps, I’m alright with that. So, I beat them up, and I took this song.”
Progressing through several popular songs, and offering several references to cheese (“It’s pretty great what you guys are doing here. [You have] both my favourite kinds of cheese, orange and white”), it would be stories of relationships that formed the narrative of choice on this night. Prior to performing “So Gone Now,” a tune found on his 2013 “Something In Between” album, Matt demonstrated his devilish nature. “This tune kind of helps prove a point that if you’re going to date a musician and break up with him, he’s gonna write a song about you,” he offered. “I got a message on my phone once that kind of went like, I just got to track number 4 on your new CD, and I’m not sure if it’s about me, but it really hit home. And I remember thinking to myself, wait to you hear number 7 and 13. I don’t think she liked that joke either.”
Following his rousing version of the Curtis Mayfield hit, “People Get Ready” – complete with some enthusiastic audience participation – Matt would return to the relationship well one final time. “My girlfriend loves to watch really depressing TV shows. She loves things like Intervention, Hoarders, The Handmaid’s Tale, she really got into that over the pandemic,” he shared, leading up to a performance of “Been My Last.” “I’m more of a Family Guy, Simpson’s kind of person, so a lot of our nights are spent looking for something to watch, and me waiting for her to fall asleep, and then I can watch what I want to watch.” Matt had us all eating out of his hand at this moment. “But one night, we were watching one of these shows and someone got talking about the relationship he had with his mom growing up, and apparently when he was quite young, she called him over and sat him on her knee, and took him by his little hand and said to him, ‘if you were my first child, you would have been my last child.’ I’m not a parent, but oh, is that cool,” he added. “The first thing I ever got from my folks is ‘stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about,’ but it did give me an idea for this song.”
Following immediately with his popular closing number, the always-amazing “Devil’s Bride,” Matt thanked the room for spending their Sunday evening with him, before forgoing the exit and return encore theatrics, and simply wrapping up the evening with a phenomenal cover of Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers In A Dangerous Time” – one he dedicated to the event hosts for their gracious hospitality. Team GDW are also grateful to the hosts for giving us advance notice of this event once it was finalized, and for allowing us to enjoy too this outstanding 90-minutes of entertainment from one of Canada’s best. And given his busy touring schedule, we’re sure it won’t be long before this blues musician is back on the US east coast again soon…we’ll be watching for show announcements, ready to pounce on those tickets.
- Take Me Back
- I Play The Fool For You
- Home Sweet Home
- Other Side Of Goodbye
- Quiet Company
- Make You Stay
- Only An Island
- Coal Mining Blues
- Have You Got The Blues
- So Gone Now
- People Get Ready (Curtis Mayfield cover)
- Been My Last
- Devil’s Bride
- Lovers In A Dangerous Time (Bruce Cockburn cover)