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Arkansas musician Matt Stell talks to The Current

Arkansas Times
Matt Stell & The Crashers are coming to OKC in support of "Vestibule Blues"
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The Current

September 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Appearing at Oklahoma City’s Wormy Dog Saloon on Saturday, Sept. 24, Matt Stell & The Crashers will be performing a show which Stell tells The Current will “be fun with a lot of jamming.”

Stell, based in Morrilton, Ark., formed The Crashers approximately three years ago with his bass-playing buddy Joey Rowlett.

Since then, Stell and The Crashers – which includes lead guitarist Darren Barry and drummer Cliff Aaron – have recorded two albums, 2009’s The Sound and The Story, which received a very laudatory review in Oklahoma’s Red Dirt Report, and the latest, Vestibule Blues, out now on 124 Records.

Talking to The Current via phone on a hot, Central Arkansas day, Stell said when he went to Nashville he had some songs done but not all.

“I am not always the most prolific of song finishers,” Stell admits. “I am a prolific song starter, though. And once I got going it was great to go in and dig in and start those songs.”

And when they were finished, Stell had 11 songs which ran the gamut from roots rock to country to more folk styled. And the lyrics were often introspective and thoughtful, as heard on the album’s first single, “Robert Tatum,” which is getting radio play in a four-state area.

“It was a little bit a risk releasing that as a single,” Stell reflected. “People want to feel good when they’re driving down the road. It’s not about conventional subject matter.”

Robert Tatum, explained Stell, is a man he met in Arkansas who was working as a horse trainer. However, Stell learned Tatum had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars through unfair circumstances with a business he worked for.

“It really pissed me off the first time I heard (his story),” he said. “And I was proud to release it.”

And what is interesting is that it takes the perspective of a white-collar worker, which isn’t nearly as common in the Americana music field.

“I am kind of a reader,” he confesses. “I am into literature and things like that. I like (William) Faulkner books.” And with that love of classic Southern literature comes an appreciation for the interesting and complex characters that inhabit this region.

“I’ve grown up in both ends of the South – Central Arkansas and Central Florida. And something I’ve noticed, things I’ve noticed about the South, things that speak to me, is that this is fertile ground for writing.”

Continuing, Stell said, “The only avenue I have to get these things out there is through music and song. And I’ve already received some pretty good feedback.”

And while there has not been a large group of alt-country artists to come out of Arkansas, save Little Rock band like the Boondogs, Stell said he is “starting to feel a bit of the love” from The Natural State.

“We take care of our own around here,” the Arkansan said with a pleasant laugh.

With a voice reminiscent of Son Volt’s Jay Farrar, Stell embraces a Mid-South sound that has elements of soul and blues in it, as well as the aforementioned country and folk styles.

Stell and The Crashers are definitely versatile musicians. And they are gaining a larger and larger following at each tour stop. Just this fall, MS&C are appearing at gigs not only in Arkansas and Oklahoma but in Kansas, Texas and Iowa as well.

Stell and the boys have already opened up for everyone from Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham to country star Eric Church to Oklahoma’s own Stoney LaRue.

“In fact tonight I’m running down to Little Rock to open up for Charlie Robison,” Stell said.

Stell said he intends to work hard in making music a career. And with solid albums like Vestibule Blues, I suspect he is going to have a lot of success.

In fact, listening to Vestibule Blues, produced by Jeff Dayton, it is amazing at how great every song really is. The smooth roots-rock of "Memphis On the River," the confident balladry of "Piney Woods,"  the subtle bluegrass of "Sherry," along with Stell's haunting vocal is dynamite stuff. And that aforementioned Jay Farrar comparison really comes out on mid-tempo rockers like "Shoot The Lights." And with "Walk Away," the last cut, it sounds like the sort of material being put out by Texas/Red Dirt stars like Randy Rogers Band and Wade Bowen or more recent Cross Canadian Ragweed, pre-breakup.

All in all, Matt Stell & The Crashers are an act to get excited about . Arkansas should be proud of their native son/band.

For more on information on Matt Stell & The Crashers go to www.mattstell.com.

Copyright 2011 The Current

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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