The first time I saw Matt McGinn – who has a lovely new album out that you should buy – was at one of those shows people used to do in the Black Box where a cast of thousands play all the songs from a big album – they had already done Harvest, I think, and Astral Weeks and Fisherman’s Blues, and now it was the turn of The Last Waltz.
The afternoon (it was a long affair, this) was hosted by the irreplaceable and much-missed Gerry Anderson, who arrived in a fluster having locked the keys inside his Mercedes. Someone from a garage on the Boucher Road had broken into his car and got his keys and charged him £160. ‘I could have left my car in half a dozen places in Belfast,’ he told me, ‘and got that done for nothing.’
Gerry started everything off with a rousing welcome and launched into a spirited version of ‘Who Do You Love?’. I was on early, playing a solo version of ‘Such a Night’ by Dr. John on acoustic guitar. I seem to remember feeling very out place, very subdued among the rackets being generated by people like Jackson Cage and Captain Kennedy and co. But the craic was great.
Anyway, half way through the first set, on came Matt McGinn and tore the place up with a raw version of ‘The Shape I’m In’. I’d heard his name (it’s a great name, blessed with its own rhythm and bounce on the tongue), but it was the first time I’d heard him perform and I thought he was wonderful. Andrea thought he looked like a happy dancing bear.
Over the years, I’ve come to know Matt well, and we’ve done a few gigs and broadcasts together here and there. On his debut album, Livin’, he asked me to play some slide guitar and I showed up at his house badly hungover and attempted to put some licks down over a pretty complicated arrangement. I went home convinced I had let the side down, but when the track came out, he had cut and spliced something wonderful out of it. I tell you, it bore little resemblance to what I offered him that afternoon.
It was good enough though, that he asked me back, and I’m thrilled to have been part of his latest album, the delicious Latter Day Sinner. Once again I’m playing slide guitar, on a song called ‘We’re Fine’, with my playing weaving in and out between harmonica licks from the legendary Mickey Raphael. I think it’s the sweetest song on the collection, but then I would say that. There are some harmonies on ‘Fall into You’ that just make me swoon. And I’m not much of a swooner anymore.
It’s a lovely collection, recorded with warmth and heart and it deserves to be heard by as many of you as possible. Click HERE to order a copy. And click HERE if you’d like to watch a video featuring some selections from the album. And if you’re a downloader and you only want one track, ‘We’re Fine’ is, er... (cough) the one I’d go for...
And if you'd like to see the man perform in person, and pick up a copy of the album from Matt himself, he's appearing at McGrory's in Culdaff on November 13, at the Downshire Arms in Hilltown on November 15, St. George's Church in High Street Belfast on November 19 and Abner Brown's in Dublin on November 26.
I can't guarantee that he will dance like a happy bear at any of those gigs, but maybe if you ask him he might oblige.