DC Music Photographer Chip Py invites local musicians over each week to grill and groove in his garden.
Season Three, Episode Seven, Crys Matthews
Crys Matthews blends Americana, folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass and funk into a bold, complex performance steeped in traditional melodies and punctuated by honest, original lyrics. Having been compared to everyone from Toshi Reagon to Tracy Chapman to Ruthie Foster, Matthews’ eclectic infusion of genres has won her honorable mentions at the 2013 and 2014 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest and extensive radio play from Woman of Substance radio to WTJU-Charlottesville and WMRA-Harrisonburg to KBOO-Portland.
Equally at home in an acoustic listening room as she is on stage at large music festivals, Matthews has quickly gathered a loyal following on the east coast playing such prestigious venues as The Birchmere, Jammin’ Java, The Hamilton, and Busboys and Poets. Matthews’ festival and showcase roster has included SXSW, the 40th Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, Folk Alliance International, 30A Songwriters Festival, Island Hopper Music Festival, Northeast Regional Folk Alliance and many more.
When her song The Imagineers was referred to as “the unofficial anthem of the Tiny Desk Contest” in 2016, Crys Matthews said it was a distinction that made her almost as proud as she would have been had she won. “Who better to relate to a song about walking the thin line between your daydreams and your day jobs than indie artists,” Matthews asked. “The ones who still believe in magic, the ones who rise above our fears” — that’s not just a lyric from the title track of Crys Matthews’ new release, it’s the common thread woven through most of the songs on The Imagineers. From breakups and makeups to mental illness and addiction, Matthews offers up perspective on some of the most universal elements of the human experience. “We’ve all been there in one way or another,” said Matthews. “We get so bogged down in adulting and everything that it entails that sometimes we don’t do it very well, but then other times we totally nail it.” The Imagineers ushers in Matthews’ tenth year as a singer-songwriter, her first full-length release since 2014, and her first time working with producer Mark Williams (Sucker Punch Recording Co.). Matthew is simultaneously releasing an EP of social justice songs called Battle Hymn for an Army of Lovers, which was also produced by Williams.
Nelson Mandela said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” That sentiment is at the heart of Crys Matthews’ EP of social justice songs called Battle Hymn for an Army of Lovers. From the title track to We Must Be Free (an adaptation of Roberta Slavit’s Freedom is a Constant Struggle) Matthews offers an insightful soundtrack to the modern-day resistance. “The songs on this EP are intended to be a small offering of hope and encouragement during these unsettling times,” Matthews said. “I hope that they will remind us of our collective resilience and inspire all of us the way my mom, Nelson Mandela, Michelle Obama, Rita Mae Brown, Julia Ward Howe, and Eva Cassidy (via Curtis Mayfield) inspired the title track.”
A prolific lyricist and composer, thoughtful, realistic and emotional, Matthews’ songs speak to the voice of our generation and remind us why music indeed soothes the soul.