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Matt Andersen makes art from isolation

Canadian bluesman brings his solo show to Millennium Place



WHO: Matt Andersen with Del Barber

WHERE: Millennium Place

WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 6, 8 p.m.



Matt Andersen sings like a pained, exiled angel longing for home.

At every show, he expounds upon the audience the hardships of wandering upon this troubled earth with a voice as forceful the blues world has ever seen. And when his voice can't take it anymore, his guitar bleeds for him and he sweats out whatever remaining troubles the music can't expel.

Over the phone, however, he sounds about as well adjusted as any human should. It makes sense. You too would feel mighty fine if you had spent two hours each night expelling all your pent up emotional trash.

"When I play songs I don't focus too much. I just kind of play. When the crowd's there and giving me lots of energy back I can really feed off that and it makes for a better show if the audience is there with me," Andersen says.

He's speaking from a pit stop in Red Deer on the fourth day of a 40-date cross-Canada tour. The man is a prodigious tour monkey, roaming the continent more often than not. Once he's done with North America he'll hop the Atlantic and mesmerize the willing over there, with just a guitar in his lap and that big, big voice. He'll play with a band for maybe two gigs a year and the rest of the time - like this 40-date jaunt across then country - he's riding solo.

"It's a pretty easy way to travel. I just jump in the truck and go where I need to go," Andersen says. "And on stage too, I don't need to worry about set lists or anything like that, I just kind of get up and do what I feel like doing. It's a lot harder to do that when you have a band with you."

Even still, the isolation can get the better of any man. His songs often deal with themes of loneliness and isolation, punctuated by some of the most emotionally charged blues Canada has produced. He says it's one of the side-effects of travelling long distances all alone but it's made for some compelling music. The Times in the U.K labeled him "Canada's greatest guitarist."

He's come a long way from covering classic rock in pub bands throughout university. Born into a musical family in the blue-collar village of Perth-Andover, New Brunswick, he took up the guitar at age 14. He'd ransack his older brother's tape collection, gobbling up the Creedence and Skynyrd while absorbing the old country his parents would listen to. Family gatherings would be impromptu jam sessions - his grandfather played the fiddle and his mother played piano at the local church.

But it was a chance encounter at a London, Ont. pub in 1998 that he found his true love. It came in the form of a live blues band and there was something about the chord changes and the honesty in the lyrics that had him hooked. He dumped the pub band he was playing in and went out on his own, he working restlessly to secure a reputation as one of Canada's most promising blues acts.

His 2002 debut album One Size Never Fits and supporting tour earned him a reputation on the Canadian circuit. Since then, he's released seven more albums, including the Colin Linden-produced Coal Mining Blues , released earlier this year. Coal Mining Blues features the Band keyboardist Garth Hudson and Olabelle singer Amy Helm, aiding Andersen in crafting some of the most mature and buoyant tracks of his career. He has another album due out this fall.

"Both albums we did the same way in terms of just recording on the floor," he says. "We didn't do a lot of overdubs and the production on it is something that I'm really proud of. It doesn't have that really polished sound like to the unnatural point of being polished that I really don't dig in a lot of recordings right now."

Some of these songs will be performed at his Millennium Place performance on Thursday, Oct. 6. Tickets are $24 and available online at www.artswhistler.com or at the venue.



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