Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Matt Jones songs are those that are dressed in overalls and flannels, with patches on their elbows and knees. They've been worked thin and busted through many times over and the skin of the legs and arms sacked in those sleeves and leggings are wooly and coarse. They belong to folks who are connected to weary, but fiery eyes and they seem to belong to people much older than you'd ever guess by what surrounds them, by the other parts that they share. These are the old souls, of dusty scrapbooks and letters written in the faded cursive that people actually used. They are people from the days when we weren't all so connected to one another through our portable rectangles and invisible pulses.
The Ypsilanti, Michigan, songwriter and his band, make songs that tip over from their own weight. They are never diluted, but the heavy form of what they stand for - those back porches and those just-so sunsets, olden times and all of the things that are hanging in the air, all of those darkened thoughts that everyone wants to say, but might never go through with airing them. These are conquering spirits and there's dirty laundry roaming around the grounds, picking up scents and biding their time for the pounce. These are age-old hunts that are playing out, the thoughts of betrayal and the moods of those who aren't just going to let anything go. They'll have their day.
Jones, similar to the way Colin Meloy of the Decemberists and William Elliott Whitmore do it, brings about a historic tone in his writing - the things that we can't get away from, the sins of the past, those things and decisions that were made that are going to be paid for as long as there are people and time to pay. There's occasionally a focus on those aspects of ourselves that we pretend to curse, but only halfway - the psychological warfare that gets waged, those comments and actions that we hold against people for all time. Jones sings, "I want to play the games we used to play/When you were mine/But there's never time," and there's a "dammit" in there somewhere, in a silent place up there in the head, even though it's obvious that no one would feel good about the playing of these games. These are the scraggly, long-toothed men, scratching open old sores, just because they still long for the sight of blood, however they can get it. They like to see the red drip because it's the only thing that they still know will convince them that they're alive and unwell, but alive. They are what they used to be and figments of their old flames as well.
*Essay originally published December, 2011