Matthew Alexander

 

"Matthew Alexander is an exceptional talent...He is a must see...a wonderful and especially likable performer"

“Striking attention to the melody of the songs and their lyrics…Marvelous and delicious”

Three Minute Movie by Matthew Alexander

Translated by Maartin Pennink

Matthew Alexander learned to play guitar when he was eight and was barely fifteen when he started composing his own songs. His musical examples were Gordon Lightfoot, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan. As a young performer in the 60’s, he was part of the folk scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts and was a frequent solo performer in various coffee houses in Boston, Massachusetts.

In the early 70’s, he opened for Billy Joel and, as a member of the folk trio “Moonshine”, opened for five nights for Bruce Springsteen at the showcase club Kenny’s Castaways in New York City. When “Moonshine” broke up, Alexander performed frequently as a solo artist but found less success on his own than with his band. He decided in 1982 to complete his degree in psychology and start a family with his wife Elaine. They now have two children, Ethan and Natalie, and live in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Like a microbe floating through his life, however, creating and playing music continued to be a force in Matthew Alexander’s life. After a long hiatus, in 2008 he released a new record by the name of Daredevil Angel which is followed now by his latest album Three Minute Movie. This new CD was produced by Michael McGinnis and showcases some excellent studio musicians on keyboards, dobro, pedal steel, bass and drums.

A striking feature of the fourteen songs on Three Minute Movie is the attention that Matthew Alexander repeatedly devotes to the melody of the songs and their lyrics. Again and again, I am struck by the similarities between Alexander’s music and that of artists such as J.J. Cale, Jim Croce, James Taylor and Paul Simon in tracks such as “Indigo and I”, title track “Three Minute Movie”, “Traveling Song” and “The Wind Blows High and Low.” 

“Beyond the Sea” is a totally different sounding piano-based song which showcases a crooner’s style. It is an English version of the hit song “La Mer” from 1946 written by the French chansonnier Charles Trenet. A second cover on this album is the song “Ramblin’Rose”, a  popular hit written by the Sherman Brothers which made the charts in 1962 as sung by Nat King Cole.

Furthermore, there is the marvelous waltz “Lost in this World” and “Prison of My Soul” (with delicious sax solo by Tim Gordon) in which Alexander’s guitar playing is reminiscent of the more recent work of Mark Knopfler. Two songs, “Racing Against Time” and “If You Didn’t Know Me” (for Hannah), are taken from his daily life and are about the memory-killing Alzheimer’s Disease with which his mother suffered prior to her death.

The album Three Minute Movie takes a total of nearly fifty minutes. Its fourteen songs comprise a very pleasant, listenable record from a singer-songwriter who actually has nothing left to prove. His melodies and vocal style make for fine entertainment for his listeners and fans.

"...fully arranged pop and country amid clean, pristine production..."

Veteran singer-songwriter Matthew Alexander celebrates the release of the newly remastered version of his 1987 debut album, “Wishing I Had Wings,” at The Atherton Mill Market (2014 South Blvd.) Saturday, October 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Alexander began his career in Boston during the folk boom of the late `60s. Today he’s based in Charlotte where he recorded “Wishing I Had Wings” almost 25 years ago. It features well known Charlotte musicians like the Spongetones’ Jamie Hoover and Debby Dobbins who are still active today.

“Wishing I Had Wings” is more than a snapshot of folk and country music during the late `80s (although it captures it well). It showcases Alexander’s nimble finger picking for one. The opening track is fit for a bluegrass audience, while “Counting the Hours” is one of those classic country weepers you can imagine Conway Twitty singing. “The World Just Keeps Spinning Round” could be interpreted as a contemporary Christian tune, in part due to the style and production that straddles the line between pop and country. “Crying” on the other hand sounds like a Chris Isaak style pop-rock hit. “Tulsa Tomorrow” treads darker, bluesy waters that match its storytelling format. “California Roads” features near gospel-style harmonies, which remind me of both the Mamas and the Papas and a church choir.

In fact “Wishing I Had Wings” covers a lot of ground drifting in and out of and mixing John Denver-style folk with more fully arranged pop and country amid clean, pristine production. It reminds me of some of the songs Larry Groce sang on “Mountain Stage” when I was growing up - folk-based at its heart but the full backing band and production directs it toward commercial country territory. Of course you can't get more country than lyrics like those on "Sentenced To Life."

Blog: Sound Bites
Post: Veteran Charlotte-based songwriter revisits 1987 album
Link: http://cltsoundbites.blogspot.com/2011/10/veteran-charlotte-based-songwriter.html

"...The guitar soars cheerfully, putting you on cloud 9. His charisma cuts right through to the heart..."

Matthew's joyful demeanor captures you immediately in "I Remember You." The guitar soars cheerfully, putting you on cloud 9. His charisma cuts right through to the heart. Matthew talks about his guilt with cheating in "Crying," a tale about waking up in the arms of someone other than your significant other, and frankly feeling bad about feeling great. A tale that many can relate to. "Windowshopper" starts off with an angelic piano solo, inviting you to listen to Matthew's story about his fear of commitment. "Wishing I had Wings" is definitely my favorite on the album, the gentle trillings of the dobro take me back to a simpler time.The standout factor of this album is how the guitar flawlessly carries it from beginning to end. Matthew's work definitely has a place in the album collection of any classic country fan. Wishing I Had Wings is a gentle and beautifully paced album that you'll listen to some day while taking a trip
through the countryside. And Matthew's charming voice will ensure that you'll want to hear it more than once.

Veteran Charlotte-based songwriter revisits 1987 album

Veteran singer-songwriter Matthew Alexander celebrates the release of the newly remastered version of his 1987 debut album, “Wishing I Had Wings,” at The Atherton Mill Market (2014 South Blvd.) Saturday, October 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Alexander began his career in Boston during the folk boom of the late `60s. Today he’s based in Charlotte where he recorded “Wishing I Had Wings” almost 25 years ago. It features well known Charlotte musicians like the Spongetones’ Jamie Hoover and Debby Dobbins who are still active today.

“Wishing I Had Wings” is more than a snapshot of folk and country music during the late `80s (although it captures it well). It showcases Alexander’s nimble finger picking for one. The opening track is fit for a bluegrass audience, while “Counting the Hours” is one of those classic country weepers you can imagine Conway Twitty singing. “The World Just Keeps Spinning Round” could be interpreted as a contemporary Christian tune, in part due to the style and production that straddles the line between pop and country. “Crying” on the other hand sounds like a Chris Isaak style pop-rock hit. “Tulsa Tomorrow” treads darker, bluesy waters that match its storytelling format. “California Roads” features near gospel-style harmonies, which remind me of both the Mamas and the Papas and a church choir.

In fact “Wishing I Had Wings” covers a lot of ground drifting in and out of and mixing John Denver-style folk with more fully arranged pop and country amid clean, pristine production. It reminds me of some of the songs Larry Groce sang on “Mountain Stage” when I was growing up - folk-based at its heart but the full backing band and production directs it toward commercial country territory. Of course you can't get more country than lyrics like those on "Sentenced To Life."

"crisp pop-folk...Beautifully recorded...Direct and honest..."

Wishing I Had Wings – Matthew Alexander

Charlotte singer Matthew Alexander’s style is an outgrowth of the singer/songwriter movement of the late ‘60s. As a matter of fact, he started out on the New York-Cambridge folk circuit of those days before “dropping out” to become a doctor.

Wishing I Had Wings, available at New World and Ernie’s, shows off a crisp pop-folk flavor, beautifully recorded at Reflection by Steve Haigler. I admit this LP put me through some changes. Alexander sings direct and honest songs with attractive melodies about subjects like freedom, nature’s beauty, open hearts etc. – not the kind of thing hard-bitten music editors are supposed to appreciate, what with the “life stinks and then you die” attitude currently having the upper hand. But, jeez, guys, you can’t live on a diet of nails forever, and love is important and complicated, the mountains are pretty above the timberline, so give me a break. The things Alexander sings about are a heck of a lot more pleasant than “bus exhaust killed my soul” and you know what, they’re just as real. Sometimes we just need Matthew Alexander to remind us.

 "Layers of lyrical depth can be peeled from the breezy Folk-Pop of singer/Songwriter Matthew Alexander."

Layers of lyrical depth can be peeled from the breezy folk-pop of singer/songwriter Matthew Alexander. Just about every track on Daredevil Angel has a seemingly autobiographical or personal context. Although the songs are mostly catchy and carry a lightweight acoustic groove, Alexander stitches them together with confessional narratives. "New York City Backwoods" is an emotionally devastating recollection of his brother's suicide. "My brother died on your pavement/His body was bloody and cold/My brother died on your pavement/Never to grow old," Alexander sings plaintively, as brittle guitars march like a ghost train.

Alexander has a breathy voice that conveys a melancholic ache, but hope as well. Basically, it's the sound of a middle-aged man who has experienced the highs and lows of everyday life—love lost and found, death and emptiness—and is moving on to bluer skies. Alexander is clever as well. In "God Must Be Lonely," Alexander wonders if the greater power that watches over us suffers from the isolation of being the only one of his kind. It's a thought-provoking concept, one that Alexander explores with respect and empathy.

Daredevil Angel is largely a quiet album, but that doesn't mean it moves at a snail's pace. The blues-tinged "Didn't Happen That Way" unfolds quickly, gently rocking with a Dire Straits-ish swagger. The instrumental "New Town Rag" crackles with a shuffling beat, and "Joanna" seduces with Alexander's dreamiest guitar work. While coffeehouse folk is Alexander's main dish, there are country spices too, especially on "Chattanooga Boogie" and the cry-in-your-beer ballad, "When We Say Goodbye."

Alexander has been writing and recording music for decades, and Daredevil Angel soars over his previous releases with its captivating campfire storytelling and timeless, evocative singing.

Visit Matthew Alexander on the web.

Track listing: Chattanooga Boogie; Daredevil Angel; Everybody's Foolin'; God Must Be Lonely; Didn't Happen That Way; Joanna; New Town Rag; New York City Backwoods; Where Will I Find You?; Shine; Nancy's On My Mind; One Day; Right Now; When We Say Goodbye; River City.

Personnel: Matthew Alexander: lead and harmony vocals, rhythm and lead acoustic guitar; Fred Story: keyboards, bass, drums, percussion, harmonica, accordion, string arrangements.

Style: Beyond Jazz
Published: April 24, 2009

"one of the year's best albums...Sharply written and heartwarmingly melodic" 

Singer/songwriter Matthew Alexander discusses his early experiences with Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and Bonnie Raitt

The music industry, for all of its flaws, offers one of the rarest opportunities you can find in life: The chance to come back and start over again. Singer/songwriter Matthew Alexander was on the verge of a mainstream breakthrough as a young man; however, as you will read below, he missed his train, and not always unintentionally, either. But it doesn’t matter. After a two-decade absence, Alexander has returned with one of the year’s best albums, the sharply written and heartwarmingly melodic acoustic-pop record Daredevil Angel. Alexander discusses the missing years of his rock & roll life.

Kyrby Raine: You once opened up for Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen in the early ’70s. Describe those expriences. Do you still recall them vividly in your mind?

Matthew Alexander: In 1971, I had moved back to New York City from Cambridge to try to make it as a singer/songwriter. I had had a successful run in Boston playing the coffeehouse circuit and wanted to try my hand in the Big Apple. My first year back in New York City, I got hired to do a gig at a music room in Greenwich Village. It turned out that I was the opening act for the opening act, who was Tim Weisburg, who went on to have a successful career as a jazz flutist. The main act was a young man by the name of Billy Joel, who was about to release his first record. He struck me as a good singer and excellent piano player but most of what I remember is how delighted he was to wave to his many friends in the audience.

A much more unforgettable experience for me was opening later that same year for Bruce Springsteen at Kenny’s Castaways, a record industry showcase. Springsteen had just come out with his first record, Greetings from Asbury Park. I was co-leader of the folk-rock trio Moonshine, and we were booked to open for a group called Mirage. When we got to the club for the sound check, we were informed that Mirage had cancelled. When we asked the sound guy who we were opening for, he told us we were opening for the next Bob Dylan. When we asked for the name of this exalted musician, we were told his name was Bruce Springsteen. My buddy and I walked away and muttered to each other, “Yeah, right, like he really has a chance to make it with a first name like Bruce!” (no offense to all the Bruces out there). We did our first set and then settled back to listen to the “next Bob Dylan.”

Springsteen started with a solo acoustic set, and we were unimpressed (and I am sure jealous as well). However, when Springsteen strapped on his electric guitar and brought out the E-Street Band, it was incredible. I knew then that he was going to be very, very big. Even though that was more than 30 years ago, it was simply the greatest live show I have ever seen. We wound up opening for Springsteen for five nights, each doing two sets every night. At the end of each night, Springsteen would thank us. All the members of his band, including Clarence Clemons, were equally gracious. A final image I will always remember is how on the very last night of our run, we all went out for drinks after the show. Springsteen was the last to order and to our collective surprise simply asked for a glass of milk. 

Raine: Why did you leave the music industry? When exactly was this?

Alexander: I left the music industry in 1978. I had certainly had my share of successes and setbacks during my seven years pursuing a career in the biz. The first publisher I met with in Los Angeles, for example, heard my demo and immediately got on the phone with a leading producer in town and told him in my presence, “I don’t know who he is, but this kid just walked through the door and he’s got something…when can you see him?” While the producer was looking at his calendar on the other end of the line, the publisher asked me if I had any appointments scheduled that week with other song publishers. When I said yes, he unabashedly told me to cancel them all! I went on to have many songs published while I was in L.A., although not a single one with this publisher.

A more sobering story has to do with an audition I secured with the leading Country & Western publisher in L.A. by the name of Al Gallico (Gallico Music). Gallico’s song screener was a big fan of my songs and

finally got me a personal audition with the big man himself. I walked in with my guitar and started playing a song for the boss who, I am not kidding, sat behind his desk smoking a cigar. I had gotten no more than 15

seconds into the first song when Mr. Gallico interrupted me and said, “That song’s got nothing…what else you got?” Needless to say, I left the audition feeling lower than the floor. Quite coincidentally, there was a

bookstore across the street where I picked up a book on the music business that informed me that it was literally easier to be hit by lightning than to make it in the business.

The final straw was when I took the same song to two different publishers on the same day. The first one loved the chorus but hated the verse. The second one loved the verse but hated the chorus. I figured out after that experience that there was no winning this game and that if I continued trying I would lose my mind!

Perhaps of equal importance was the fact that after having had my songs endlessly critiqued by “master” songwriters and publishers, I was starting to write songs more for their commercial viability than for their personal relevance. The quality of my craft was suffering. I came to realize that perhaps I would be better off holding onto my dream of writing songs and making records but funding this dream myself so that I could have creative independence. And so after finishing graduate school in Ann Arbor, I took a psychology job in North Carolina and started my own record company Caravan Records. It was a good move.

Raine: In 1987, you recorded your debut album, Wishing I Had Wings. How has your music developed in those 20 years?

Alexander: When I recorded Wishing I Had Wings, I lacked the confidence to do my own guitar parts so I hired studio musicians to play guitar, mandolin, dobro, steel guitar and bass. Although there are some great songs on the record, somehow I feel as though I got lost in the mix. Also, the vocals were done last, after all the other instruments were in place. Since making that record, I have come to realize that the most

important part of recording is capturing a magic moment in time, and that such a moment is much more likely to occur for me if I am “in my element,” which is playing guitar and singing at the same time. So on

Daredevil Angel, we started with the guitar and vocal, both of which were recorded simultaneously. After those tracks were done, I laid down second guitar lead parts which I had spent months practicing with a hand-held microcassette recorder. Fred Story, the producer and other musician on the disc, then added his parts. The result is, I believe, a much more organic and open feel than my previous records.

My songwriting over the past 20 years has also evolved to include more spiritual themes such as transcendence and meaning. In the 20 years since Wishing I Had Wings was recorded, I lost both my parents, got married and had kids of my own. These experiences, and a long forced hiatus from music to raise my young children, led me to approach music and songwriting in a more disciplined and focused way. I spend more time, for example, trying to get the lyric just right and perfecting my guitar parts.

One other change has been my going back to previous songs I had written, some as far back as high school and college, and tweaking them lyrically to bring them up to par. I had always been relentless in leaving behind the old songs in pursuit of the newest, “better” song and only recently realized that some of my old songs were pretty good, still had considerable relevance to my life and only needed some minor corrections.

This has been a major revelation for me and parallels my observation that the greatest songs are timeless in their sound and appeal.

Finally, as a guitarist I got away from using finger picks and now play only with my naked fingers. It took some courage to do this but this approach allows me much greater freedom rhythmically and melodically.

Raine: In your bio you mention once being friends with Bonnie Raitt. Have you kept in contact with her?

Alexander: I met Bonnie during our freshman year at Harvard. I first heard about her when my best friend, Mike Felsen, came back from her dorm room telling me that she had taken out her guitar and that she was a “good player.” Bonnie had a crush on Mike’s roommate. Although that relationship never developed, we all became friends. Bonnie and I would occassionally go out and talk music over coffee. I remember seeing her perform at one of her first coffeehouse gigs in Boston when there were seven people in the audience. Soon thereafter, she played at a songwriting festival I organized at Harvard. When she dropped out of Radcliffe to pursue her musical career, she was kind enough to set up an audition for me with her manager, Dick Waterman. I usually try to get back stage to see her when she performs in town although it has been a while. I have been sending her songs of mine for years, was able to get her a copy of Daredevil Angel and have not given up my dream of her one day recording one of my songs (Bonnie, are you listening?).

"deeply heartfelt and emotionally evocative”

Matthew Alexander - A Musical Life in Five Chapters

Take away the sinful excesses, and rock & rollers often have a boring life, just long, boring days on the road, loading up on cheap junk food, and dealing with rude club owners and incompetent sound men. Acoustic pop artist Matthew Alexander, on the other hand, has truly lived an existence that is worth hearing and writing about. Having spent more than 30 years in the music industry, Alexander is just now creeping his way into the spotlight with Daredevil Angel, a deeply heartfelt and emotionally evocative record that suddenly appears after a two-decade void. Many artists rot with the passage of time; Alexander, on the other hand, has simply blossomed.

Barry Andrews: There is a streak of romantic melancholy in some of your tracks on "Daredevil Angel". Is there an autobiographical depth to some of these lyrics?

Matthew Alexander: I definitely try to write from an autobiographical place. “New York City Backwoods” is a song directly linked to my brother’s suicide when I was 19-years-old and my attempts to cope with that event. “River City” speaks to my earlier-in-life ambivalence about committing to romantic relationships and
the pain that ambivalence caused me and the women involved with me. “Joanna” and “Nancy’s On My Mind” were written about specific relationships as well, although the names have been changed to protect the innocent! On the other hand, quite honestly, I have never been to Chattanooga, Tennessee (referring to “Chattanooga Boogie”) although I hear it’s a beautiful city.

As for the romantic melancholy, I plead guilty on both counts. I tend to feel things very deeply and am aware of the beautiful poignancy of life, a reality brought into sharp focus after both my parents passed away. As a
child, I grew up hearing my father (who was a concert pianist) play Chopin on a daily basis, perhaps the most romantic music imaginable, and have always been drawn to melody in music. I had a very close relationship with my mother, who herself was a very romantically inspired poet. Because of my close relationship with her, I have always idealized women and experience them both as a source of inspiration and vulnerability in my life. I now consider myself to be a “recovering romantic,” trying to reconcile my former juvenile fantasies about “perfect love” with the realities (and rewards) of married life.

Andrews: What was the inspiration behind “God Must Be Lonely”?

Alexander: “God Must Be Lonely” started as a title. It has always seemed strange to me that people anthropomorphize God as some sort of a micro-manager in Heaven, looking down on us and hearing some of our prayers but not others. It occurred to me that if this indeed were the case, God must be a very, very
lonely entity. I mean, who does God get to talk to? It also wouldn’t surprise me that a God such as this would at times get very discouraged about what he’s seeing (and what he put in motion) down here on Earth,
not unlike the rest of us who pick up the newspaper and bear daily witness to man’s unrelenting cruelty to man. The song also has personal resonance. At about the same time that I came up with the title, I had a bad (and rare) fight with my 9-year-old son. I am very close to my children and pride myself on maintaining a nurturing presence in their life so this fight was very upsetting to me, and I couldn’t get to sleep that night, all of which fed into the lyrics.

Finally, on a more general level, I have struggled with loneliness on and off throughout my life and this experience has made its way into many of my songs. My work as a therapist is paradoxically very lonely. I hear troubling stories from patients all day but don’t reveal much about myself in these sessions and am restricted from sharing what I hear with others.

Andrews: As a psychologist, do you feel that working within that profession has given you more material for your songwriting? Were any of your tunes influenced by a patient?

Alexander: Generally speaking, my songs come from a personal place and are not influenced directly by my work with patients. Having said this, the song “One Day” on Daredevil Angel came directly from a patient visit. I am on the faculty of a Department of Family Medicine and make rounds one morning a week with their inpatients. One of them was a woman from the Bronx, now living in North Carolina, who suffers from chronic pain. She stated very honestly and openly to me that she wanted me to ask the medical doctors to
just give her “one day, one day without any pain.” She wanted that day to include the ability to walk around the block under a blue sky and not experience any physical discomfort. I was extremely moved by her requests and immediately thought it would make a great song. I elaborated on her theme to include my own concerns about mortality and longings for a more simple life that I associate with my earlier years in California.

Andrews: Do you have any plans of reissuing your earlier records on CD?

Alexander: Yes, I am currently finishing a project in which all my earliest recordings which were on reel-to-reel tapes (and which have been diligently carted around the country with me in boxes for years) will be
re-released as a digitally-remastered 19-song CD compilation. Recordings on this disc include sessions for record companies (such as Musicor in NYC) as well as L.A. publishing house demos. The CD is entitled Matt
Alexander, Early Recordings
, and will be available on CD Baby in July 2008.

 I also have plans to reissue Wishing I Had Wings as a CD as it is currently only available on cassette and vinyl. For some reason, I disposed of many of the vinyl copies years ago before realizing that vinyl
would make a comeback. Fortunately, there are still about 200 “virgin” vinyl copies left. I guess I should have learned my lesson from my mother who, like all the other 50’s Moms, threw out out all my comics and
baseball cards when I was a kid!

Daredevil Angel’ creates ‘waves of emotion and ripples of vivid imagery’

Matthew Alexander/Daredevil Angel

There are times when I found myself daydreaming while listening to singer/songwriter Matthew Alexander’s new album, Daredevil Angel. Credit that not to disinterest in the music or the lack of an attention span but to the mood-spinning qualities of his guitar playing. Alexander is no bland strummer; there is artistry in the way his fingers work the strings, creating waves of emotion and ripples of vivid imagery. On “New York City Backwoods,” Alexander’s guitar playing is absolutely spellbinding, weaving a network of melody and texture that grips the ears and refuses to let go.

You can categorize Alexander as a folk artist but that term has been thoroughly abused over the decades. It’s gotten to the point that anybody who is unplugged is labeled folk, giving birth to a small population of acoustic dullards. Alexander actually puts thought and feeling in his compositions; they switch tempo and evolve, providing full color to Alexander’s straightforward songwriting. “Didn’t Happen That Way” is robust, propulsive roots rock a la John Hiatt while “God Must Be Lonely” and “Nancy’s On My Mind” shine with the starry-eyed melancholia of James Taylor.

Published in: Acoustic ReviewsAmericana Reviews, Folk ReviewsSinger/Songwriter Reviews
on April 19, 2008 at 1:26 am Comments (0)
Tags: acoustic, folk, James Taylor, John Hiatt, roots rock

“his CD American Boy offers the breath of fresh air we often search for in our album collections but rarely find”

 

 

“Alexander’s vocals recall James Taylor”, 

Kate Walker, Free Lance Writer, National Record Review

 

“Alexander has a talent for imagery…his voice is expressive, his command of form impressive” 

Carlo Woolf, Free Lance Writer, National Record Review

“A rave review” 


Peter Basoa, Radio Rider

“The qualities that earned Creative Loafing raves for his previous disc are still in evidence on the new one: romanticism, snappy melodies in a pop/folk setting, a clear vision and a good heart” 

John Grooms, editor, Creative Loafing

 

“Dilworth’s troubadour” 

Dilworth Quarterly

“Matthew Alexander sings of the joys and pains of living 
and coming out of it all grateful for every moment.” 

Bryan Baker, Gajoob