Jay J Matott & The Arctic

by Aaron Brown August 23, 2011

[W]hat do you say about some albums? What can you say about them, these albums. These albums you can't stop listening to. These albums - that if they were in an actual physical format - they would be wearing out. These albums that wouldn't have left your cassette deck for weeks and weeks. These albums that grab you with thumping tribal production and arrangements one moment and are haunting your heart the next...and then you peel back the sounds and see the words, and they start in on you a bit more. It is all at once intoxicating and spirit-lifting and gut-wrenching and foot-tapping. These albums. It is To The Big River by Jay J Matott & The Arctic. And then you see the songs performed live and there is howling - actual, real, live howling - happening on stage. Not in a werewolf-séance sort of way, but in a way that makes you think, "These gentlemen wholeheartedly believe in these songs and they are positively killing it." This howling. It can be nearly explained with songs called "Wolfs Blood" and "Wild Animals." The former based on a short story I'm not sure I've ever heard, but causes moments of self-examination and ignites the desire for the folk you love. The latter brings in stories from the ancient texts - tales of whales and of the lion's den - and the peace that is behind and at the bottom of the pits of despair, if we might let ourselves wallow in it a little. These songs, they keep going like this: "I've been running in fields, and I've been hiding in caves, Lord from your voice," Matott sings on "Night Birds." "If I make it through the night, morning sun, won't you shine your light," he asks on "Morning Sun." "There's rain on the river, so won't you come inside? There's ghosts on the water, but don't you run and hide. We'll walk you down to the shoreline. We'll paint your face up in a cave. And then we'll set you out on the water. Oh, you're gonna' grow so brave," The Arctic jangle on the track "The Night My Fever Broke." Then adding, "You may not know me. You may not see me. But will find me. And you will hear me." To The Big River is not a beginning or an end, really. It is the brackets built by the self-shedding of it's lead track "Citrus" and the promises of love shown in the textures of the earth on "Canyons." This album of these albums. It is bravery. It is courage. It is the peace amongst the despair and mystery. It is the freedom of howling during the performance of a psalm. It does not wear out. [To The Big River can be listened to in its entirety and purchased at http://wearethearctic.bandcamp.com]


Aaron Brown
Aaron Brown

Author

In addition to having work previously in Ruminate, Aaron Brown has been published in Transition, Tupelo Quarterly, Portland Review, and Cimarron Review, among others. He is the author of Winnower (Wipf & Stock, 2013) and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. An MFA graduate from the University of Maryland, Aaron lives with his wife Melinda in Sterling, Kansas, where he is an assistant professor of writing and editing at Sterling College.



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