On Saturday, July 18, Flying Cat Music brings award winning singer-songwriter Matt Harlan to Phoenicia to perform at the Empire State Railway Museum located at 70 Lower High Street. The doors open at 7:00 p.m. with the show beginning at 7:30 prompt. Admission is $12 or $10 with RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 845-688-9453.
Winning Singer-Songwriter of the year in 2013 at the 11th Annual Texas Music Awards and taking home the prize for Americana Song of the Year in the Billboard International Song Contest in 2008 are just two of the many honors already bestowed on Houston based musician Matt Harlan in his relatively short career. His July concert for Flying Cat Music marks Matt’s return from a European tour where his Texas tinged Folk Roots sound has earned him a loyal following. Each of the three CDs that Matt Harlan has released to date hit the #1 spot on the Euro Americana Chart, an impressive accomplishment considering that Americana music is in many ways more popular in Europe than it is here at home.
Texas has a strong tradition of producing outstanding singer-songwriters crafting classic Americana music, whether it’s called folk, outlaw country, or any of a number of labels falling somewhere in between. Matt Harlan fits well within that honored tradition. 3rd Coast Music Magazine says of Harlan, “it really does come down to the songs, and if others want to be taken seriously as Texas singer-songwriters, this is how good they have to be.”
A 2014 review in No Depression Magazine stated, “24-carat Texas folk/country songwriting is alive and well in Matt Harlan’s head and hands.” The reviewer called Matt’s most recent CD, Raven Hotel, “the finest song collection I’ve stumbled across this year — in many a year, for that matter. An ageless 21st Century creation in the mold of those classic 1970’s Texas folk/country songwriters.”
Matt Harlan may not fit the mainstream of modern country music and likely he never will, but his songs have stirred waves in that realm. In September 2012, Country Music Television (CMT) launched that network’s newest digital venture, CMT Edge, with a focus on showcasing artists on the fringe of country music. CMT Edge producer Craig Shelburne described it as a platform to encourage music diversity in three genres: Americana, Bluegrass, and Classic Country. Matt Harlan was among the first artists featured by that site. In an October 2012 article on him they observed, “Harlan does not write about mindless Saturday night revelry. Instead, he elegantly captures Sunday morning redemption and regret”.
Matt is a joy to see perform live as his deft guitar work propels his narratives forward, his stories delivered in a rich warm voice as comfortable as faded jeans. His tales are told with poetry and grit and an emotional transparency reminiscent of early Jackson Brown, with a presence at once both powerful and unassuming. It is both fitting and possibly a precursor of things to come that Matt was featured alongside Texas music legends Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Nanci Griffith, Guy Clark, and others in the 2010 documentary, For the Sake of the Song, which chronicles and celebrates the music of those and other equally notable songwriters and performers whose careers were nurtured for over 40 years at the Anderson Fair Restaurant in Texas.
Few may know of Matt Harlan here in New York State, but it’s unlikely to remain that way, and there is no better setting to be introduced to his music than at the Empire State Railway Museum in Phoenicia.