There is no denying that placing our lives on hold these past two years has been profoundly tough for all of us, and applies equally to both touring musicians and their fans alike. But as we find ourselves finally turning the corner and heading in a better direction post-pandemic, it has to be said that the euphoria found in embracing live music experiences once again – and reconnecting with friends after all this time – is both truly exhilarating and warming to the soul. This past Friday evening, Team GDW took great pleasure in returning to Jammin’ Java on the outskirts of Washington DC, and not only enjoyed some outstanding music, but did so in one of our favorite go-to venues here in the US northeast.
Casting a glance back at our list of concert-going adventures, we were surprised to learn that we last stepped foot inside Jammin’ Java almost 3 years ago (June 9th, to be precise) to catch a show with Perth-Andover, NB-born, and current Cape Breton, NS-resident Matt Andersen to enjoy his Maritimes flavored brand of blues-soul music. Who knows, maybe fate played a hand in bringing us back to this intimate coffeehouse and music venue, but it seems a little more than pure coincidence that after the 3-year hiatus, it would once again be an evening of music from Matt as the source of our entertainment. And in the sense of those “but wait, there’s more” pitches heard in many late-night infomercials, Matt brought Hamilton, ON blues-rocker Terra Lightfoot along for the journey too. This was a one-two punch that we simply could not resist.
When we recall that our last in-person event with Terra Lightfoot dates back to June 2018 (in Harrisburg, PA), the opportunity to spend time with this good friend of GDW was long overdue. Sure, we enjoyed streaming events online during the Ontario lockdowns, but NOTHING beats the combination of artist and audience together in the room, living in that moment, and witnessing something special each and every time such talented artists take to the stage. And with her first appearance in this part of VA, Terra very quickly endeared herself to the Java faithful with her 30-minute opening set, first noodling on her guitar and quickly addressing the room with, “Hey everybody, sorry, I just went on a little jazz odyssey there for a second.”
Performing six tracks, Terra opened with a popular favorite, “Stars Over Dakota,” and worked her most recent “Sleepyhead” single into the mix, a track dedicated to all the hard-working parents out there who continue to put their own needs on the backburner so that they can be there for their children. Terra would also reference her own global travels and musical adventures, from touring with Randy Bachman (“he’s Canadian”), and how opening shows for the legendary Bruce Cockburn gave birth to the guitar riff at the beginning of “Midnight Choir,” one of two tracks shared on this particular night from her recent “Consider The Speed” album. Terra was also more than happy to let things get a little loud and loose with her older, rockier hit “No Hurry,” which also provided the opportunity to give her vintage 1958 Gibson ES125 a solid workout. Of course, this beautiful instrument provided fodder for a great personal story.
“I picked my guitar out with my dad because he’s rich and I’m not, so it was like, ‘dad, you should buy this one. This is totally the one you need to buy, we’re in Nashville, it’s a special trip’,” she shared. “So, he buys it, two years later he’s like, ‘I suck, here you go.’ He hands it to me, great right?” Terra has earned the full attention of the room this early into the night, and is encouraged to continue with the tale. “And then, just recently he was like, ‘hey, you know, I haven’t seen you playing that guitar on a lot of gigs. Should I take it back?’ And it was like, ‘oh no dad, it’s all good. I’m about to go out with Matt Andersen in the States for a month, and I’m bringing it, so you can’t take it back.’ So, if you decide that you want to take a photo of me and post it on my dad’s Facebook, that’d be great.” The audience responded enthusiastically, before Terra brought this narrative to a close. “We need to keep this thing in the family, and by the family, I mean my personal family. Just me.”
Terra Lightfoot Set List:
- Stars Over Dakota
- No Hurry
- Midnight Choir
- Two Wild Horses
- These Four Walls (Rita Chiarelli cover)
Following a brief intermission, the dimming of the lights and lowering of the music from the PA system announced the arrival of one of the hardest working Canadian blues performers out there on the circuit today. Seating himself center-stage, and with his trusty acoustic Lakewood guitar in hand (and extra strings on the stool beside him – he would have to replace one later during the set due to putting this instrument through its paces), Matt Andersen received an enthusiastic response from a room full of fans who, like us, had waited three years for his return.
“Today marks the most days in a row in the last two years that I’ve actually worn pants, so I’m feeling pretty good,” he remarked, establishing a jovial tone that would remain for the duration of his 90-minute performance. “I’m not sure about you guys, over the last while, only the Amazon delivery guys got to see me in my natural state.” Of course, how could Matt not make frequent references to the events of the past two years, and with an instrumental moment during “I Play The Fool For You,” would pull off a noticeable high pitch slide across the fretboard. “Took me the whole pandemic to figure out how to do that,” he joked, before returning full throttle to his vocals and closing out the song.
Following the release of his latest album, “House to House,” back in early March, Matt was keen to share four of the new cuts (and while “Coal Mining Blues” is not a new song, per se, this reimagined version is a stripped back, solo-acoustic rendition on the album). The first sample of new music at Jammin’ Java would also be the first single released from the album, the powerful, soul-stirring number “Other Side of Goodbye” (we shared the music video recorded in Nova Scotia just last week on our social media sites). “This song was a co-write with a neighbour of mine, Terra Spencer, who’s fantastic and carved her own musical journey out,” he offered. “Four years ago, she was a mortician, and now she’s a musician. Just keeping it alphabetical, I guess.” While we all chuckled, I was happy to hear Matt giving Ms. Spencer the recognition she deserves as an amazing songwriter. “Anyway, she brought this song and it’s about heartache, which I love, but it’s about somebody else’s heartache, so it makes it even better because you don’t feel bad about it,” he continued. “That was my soft and sensitive side,” he added, and with no hesitation, launched into a rousing performance of this instant classic.
Matt never fails to impress with his impeccable guitar work, and took frequent opportunities to push the capabilities of his sole instrument. It would be during one such extended guitar solo during “Have You Got The Blues” that he would find a way to work in a few riffs of Henry Mancini’s “The Pink Panther Theme” – completely unexpected, and earning him some thunderous applause, before jumping back into his potent final verse, and giving his vocal cords an equally impressive workout. “You’re a fun bunch to yell at,” he commented as the applause died down. “How you guys feeling about being up front now? You’re kinda in the spray zone here. Sorry about that.”
It was not unexpected to hear “Quiet Company,” not only one of his best-known hits, but a track Matt always acknowledges as being favored by his mom, so he is expected to perform it at each show. This would also prompt a conversation about how during the last two years, we’ve all needed to find those special places to seek refuge and comfort. “For myself, and a lot of folks at home, it’s my mom’s kitchen table. It’s just like a therapy session with toast really,” he shared, much to the amusement of the room. “But when I say toast, I mean brown bread, and I know some of you know what brown bread is. It’s bread with like molasses and bad stuff, it’s not whole wheat bread. And I don’t want to start any fights, but the best thing to have on brown bread is [Kraft] Cheez Whiz. There’s no other way to do it. No avocados in mom’s house.”
Digging once again into his vast back catalog, Matt opted to perform “My Last Day,” a song co-written with Nova Scotian Joel Plaskett found on his 2014 “Weightless” album. “A few years ago, I had the idea that I wanted to write a song about what would you do if you knew it was going to be your last day. So, I went to my closest resource for writing inspiration – Facebook – and asked some folks on there,” he shared – and we duly noted that both he and Terra made Facebook gags during their sets. “Quite a few of them just got back and said they’d get really drunk and have a big party. That makes sense, that’s probably why we’re friends anyway. But one guy chimed in and said he’d drive to the west coast, because that would make the day last longer. I thought that was pretty clever.” Pay attention to this song, and you’ll find that this west coast reference has been carefully woven into the lyrics.
During “People Get Ready,” a Curtis Mayfield cover found on the latest album (and coincidentally, a song he performed as a duet with Erin Costelo at this venue last time around), Matt acknowledged the amazing backing harmonies from Reeny, Micah, and Mahalia Smith on the album version, and that he needed the audience to take the reins here tonight. Ever willing, the crowd followed his instructions and lead, and very quickly had the room rocking, converting this coffee shop and music room into a cathedral of sorts. “What a band, what a band,” Matt stated upon closing, impressed with the audience participation. “My own secret dream is that tomorrow morning when you go and get your coffee, you’re gonna be standing in line at Dunkin’ Donuts or wherever you get…” A brief pause, as he realized the error of his ways. “No, you can come HERE and get your coffee. What am I talking about? Come to JAMMIN’ JAVA. Woo, what an idiot, I’m not gonna finish what I was saying. Come here and get your coffee, that’s all I want to say.”
As is customary, Matt brought the show to an end in style, with the powerful and comedic fan-favorite, “Devil’s Bride,” before advising of being comfortable and not wanting to do the get up and leave and come back encore thing (references thrown in about James Taylor). Instead, Matt invited Terra Lightfoot back on stage to join him, and together, the duo sent the audience home following a pair of stunning covers. Together, they cranked out a fabulous split-vocals (and bluesy) take of “I Shall Be Released,” before wrapping up with “Angel from Montgomery,” itself offering a connection back to a reference made earlier in the evening by Terra to the legacy of musician John Prine. A stunning non-encore encore, and a great climax to yet another solid evening of music from Matt Andersen. What a great choice of travel companion in Terra Lightfoot, who proved incredibly popular with the crowd, (naturally – as if we ever expected anything less) and undoubtedly caught the attention of the Jammin’ Java booking management too – we’d love to see Terra back here headlining her own future tour. Matt and Terra have a handful of US tour dates left on their schedule – and it goes without saying that you really should not miss out if these two incredible artists are passing through a town near you. This pairing creates magic up there on stage, so see it now – it’s an opportunity that rarely gets repeated.
Matt Andersen Set List:
- Take Me Back
- I Play The Fool For You
- Quiet Company
- Other Side Of Goodbye
- Come By
- Have You Got The Blues
- Coal Mining Blues
- Dancing In The Shoes We’ve Got On
- Make You Stay
- Honest Man
- My Last Day
- People Get Ready (Curtis Mayfield cover)
- See This Through
- Devil’s Bride
- I Shall Be Released (ft. Terra Lightfoot) (The Band cover)
- Angel From Montgomery (ft. Terra Lightfoot) (John Prine cover)