Matt Woods Goes Beyond ‘Deadman’s Blues’ w/ New Album

May 17, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  19 Comments


Back in October of 2013, Knoxville, Tennessee’s Matt Woods came out of the wild blue yonder and blew us all away when he released a single and video for what has since become his landmark song “Deadman’s Blues”. Few have ever landed such an emotional wallop to the gut like Matt Woods did with that one offering. It went on to be named Saving Country Music’s Song of the Year in 2013, and received similar praise from other attentive periodicals.

Matt Woods did what every songwriter yearns to do whenever they put pen to paper: make a deep, emotional connection with the rest of the world. But “Deadman’s Blues” was just one song. Would he, could he match it? After “Deadman’s Blues”, I almost didn’t want to know. I hate to admit it, but even though Matt Woods had been a productive artist and released multiple albums before the 3-song vinyl that “Deadman’s Blues” was a part of, I’d never partaken in his music any deeper. And for me, it seemed better to allow that song and Matt Woods to loom large for as long as possible, and not risk eroding the magic of “Deadman’s Blues” by discovering diminishing returns from rifling through his back catalog, whether that would have been the result or not. The song and video have been such a handy go-to when looking for a douse of inspiration in the middle of a given day, no sense in testing fate. So I’d wait for a more deeper Matt Woods exploration once his new album hit with “Deadman’s Blues” as the anchor.

And while we’re exercising full disclosure, I was honestly a little concerned that maybe Matt Woods wouldn’t resonate beyond the one song. I thought he may not be country enough for some reason. Matt Woods has a lot of Austin Lucas and Two Cow Garage in him—two excellent outfits, but two that trend more rock, with country and roots mixed in. And like Lucas and Two Cow, Woods works in realism more so than poetry, wrenching at your heart with real-life stories that subordinate subtly and symbolism. Would a deeper listen to Matt Woods reveal a style that was emotionally-driven roots rock with steel guitar dubbed over that I could only partially get behind?

matt-woods-with-love-from-brushy-mountainAnd that brings us to the matter of his brand new album With Love From Brushy Mountain. It only took two songs in to show how silly my concerns were that this would not be country enough, and the entire album worked to reveal that when it comes to Matt Woods and “Deadman’s Blues”, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Brushy Mountain is as complete of a country album as you will find, with excellent songwriting throughout, a great sound that is country at heart, but with sprouts of rock & roll that endow the project with spice and originality, and there’s something for every mood here. In other words, it lived up to the expectations of “Deadman’s Blues”, and even adds a few more exceptional song offerings that downright rival that song’s indelible impact.

The album starts off with two waltz beat songs, including the superbly-written “West Texas Wind” which talks about contracting rambling fever from classic old songs and living it down the rest of your life. “Snack Bar Mary and the Tin Pin Priest” shows off Matt’s storytelling side, and his ability to evoke setting in his songs. “Drinking To Forget” is more of the classic country drinking song, while another waltz, “Tiny Anchors” will creep up on you as one of the albums best tracks after seeming a little too simple during the first few listens. “Real Hard Times” is the album’s fun song, taking a up-tempo, swing approach.

I know what you’re thinking though: none of this fare sounds like something that would rival “Deadman’s Blues”. The music on With Love From Brushy Mountain is arranged strongly throughout, and some female harmony vocals really take this album to the next level as far as instrumentation and production. But what really sets Matt Woods apart—what allowed “Deadman’s Blues” to resonate so deeply—is Matt’s ability to inebriate his vocals with such authentic emotion, yet deliver them with such conviction and effortlessness. He conjures up these moments where he’s downright screaming, with the bare patches on the top of his cheeks blistering red, and his huge beard and long hair shaking frantically, stricken by the same emotion that inspired the song. It’s terrible and beautiful all at the same time, and the commiseration he can churn in the listener during these moments is virtually unparalleled.

The last three songs of this album, “Lucero Song”, “Liberty Bell”, and the “bonus” track “80 Miles An Hour” feature these definable Matt Woods moments, as well as the same heart-wrenching songwriting “Deadman’s Blues” achieved. You could even calls these songs sequels or segues to “Deadman’s”, like the memorable narrative lives on through these final tracks.

So that solves that: Matt Woods is no fluke, no one trick pony. Not even close. He’s a force of songwriting nature who can match his stories with inspired performances.

With Love From Brushy Mountain comes recommended.

Two guns up.

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Purchase With Love From Brushy Mountain From Matt Woods

Purchase With Love From Brushy Mountain on Bandcamp


19 Comments to “Matt Woods Goes Beyond ‘Deadman’s Blues’ w/ New Album”

  • And here it is. The one I’ve been hoping that you would get too, but I didn’t quite dare ask you about. I had pretty high expectations, but then again, I loved his “Matt Woods Manifesto” too, but after “Dead Man’s Blues”, the expectations were greater this time around. Quite a bit greater. I even went ahead and did the pre-order. I was confident that we would at least get a good record. Still, there was that nagging “is it going to be THAT good”? In the back of my mind. And just like you were saying, from the opening notes, you know you’re in for something special. This one joins the ranks of Jimbo Mathus’s “Dark Night of the Soul” (i know that one’s not exactly country) as one of my very favorites of the year so far. While I’m still digesting “Metamodern Sounds”, “Back to the Camper” and the “LV” e.p., this one has taken the top spot in my player and probably won’t move for a while. That title track gives me goosebumps. Great review, man.


    • With all the big releases this week, and arguably the year’s biggest release with Stugill Simpson, I really hope folks don’t overlook Matt Woods, ESPECIALLY if they consider themselves Sturgill Simpson or Hellbound Glory fans, etc because this music will be right down their alley. I know it’s a lot of music to crunch and purchase, but we may be looking back at the end of the year and say this was the week the most of the best albums of 2014 were released.


  • Every time I come here I end up spending more money on music. Dammit Trigger :)


  • I love this album. My wife bought it for me for Fathers Day, but she couldn’t wait to give it to me. I’ve been listening to it non stop.


  • Great review. You hit the nail on the head with the notion that Matt fits in with folks like Austin or the Two Cow gents but is definitely more country with a rock heart while those acts are a reverse. He is the guy I hope the Bro Country guys buy a song from.

    He is also one of the few guys I’ve seen (John Moreland fits into this category) that can play a solo set sandwiched between two full bands and still own the room.

    This one is an easy contender for album of the year for me and yea I’ve heard the Sturgill record already.


  • Great review of a great album! Love it!


  • Still waiting on the continuation of the continuation”10 badass moments”…


    • I’m sure there will be more of those coming up. The last few I did, the interest really trailed off, and I didn’t want to burn out the idea. Also I have a few artists with partial lists, but none that I feel good enough to post with 10 worthy stories. I know they’re out there, sometimes it’s just like putting a puzzle together.


  • Damnit, Trigger, yer gonna make me broke. Can you try to NOT promote good music? Wallet hates me, iTunes loves me.


  • Just listened to it. and its superb in Every aspect and a good reminder Why i started listening to this music Thank you matt woods


  • Thanks for the heads up, Trig. I’m going to purchase it today.


  • I had similar reservations about whether the album as a whole would pale next to Deadman’s Blues. Nothing like a “two guns up” Trigger review to get me off the fence! Ordered it yesterday.


  • I concur with everyone else…did so much great music have to come out this month?
    Hellbound, Simpson, Huber, and Matt Woods? I’m digging through the couch for loose change..

    Seriously.. this is a great album… lots of memorable songs. Some other standouts — “Aint no Livin’ (great opener)–and “Lying on the Floor”–


  • This is an excellent album with top notch songwriting. Hope this earns Matt some well-deserved recognition. What from I hear, he’s also a very nice fellow.

    BTW, Brushy Mountain penitentiary has a rather fascinating history. There’s a Youtube video of Matt singing “Brushy Mountain” and he sort of introduces the prison and explains his connection to it and inspiration for the song.


    • John Hiatt references Brushy Mountain at the end of his song “Tennessee Plates.” All these years I thought he was just being poetic describing a prison that was on a mountain. Then, I saw the title of this album and figured it might a real place. Sure enough. I’ll have to check out that video.


  • So deadmans blues is a pretty decent song, but I’m curious did anyone else feel like he was kinda drowning the song in self pity? Was that his intention? Anyway just not a huge fan of people feeling really sorry sorry with themselves, embrace the suck and move on with it. Might just bet personal preference, but the rest of the song was geeat


  • I hafta tell ya while I find the song writing to be pretty good I cannot get by the voice or the production. Just sounds like he’s trying just too hard to sound country and misses alot on top of that and the production is soooo country cliche. To me a primer on what a country record should not sound like. Kinda shocked by the two thumbs up.


  • Bigfoot is real-obviously youve never met Matt. I’ve been lucky enough to tour with him, and believe me when I tell you, NOTHING about Matt is a put on. He doesnt have to “try” to sound country, he is through and through. Meet him once. Hes got one of the thickest Tennessee accents youll hear. He’s also a genuine, good person who’ll help you out any way he can. I cant think of any person more deserving of success than Matt Woods. Im damn proud to know him, and damn proud of his album.


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