Great Matt Deighton Gig at the 12 Bar Club ~ But Why Isn’t He Filling the Royal Festival Hall?

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When Vic Templar curates the Meltdown Festival, assuming I get selected before Hell freezes over, the first name on my wish list will be Matt Deighton. Yes, even before I begin the forlorn process of persuading Scott Walker to tread the boards with the London Philharmonic and sing The Amorous Humphrey Plugg. Last night, Matt sat with his acoustic Epiphone before an audience in the tiny, intimate and welcoming, but very hot 12 Bar Club in Denmark Street. It could barely have been hotter 370 years ago, when the same room was a blacksmith’s forge. The venue was almost packed, but it’s a tiny venue.

I have written here before my thoughts on his 1995 solo debut, the bucolic Villager, one of the greatest albums of all time in any genre. He followed it up a year later with a disc that was a gnat’s whisker away from being just as good, You Are the Healer. Yet this didn’t get a release until 2000. Deighton was the vocalist, guitarist and main songwriter for acid jazz groovers Mother Earth. Sometime around the turn of the century he went electric again, with the help of mates including Paul Weller, Steve White and Mick Talbot producing The Common Good, and guesting with Oasis in Noel’s absence. So, he is not short of connections, but his genius remains hidden from the populace.

I met Matt twice, around about the time of Villager’s release, which roughly coincided with Mother Earth’s split. He came across as a genuinely nice bloke, as I expect he is, yet I wonder if part of the reason he is not better known is that he likes it that way. His beautiful mellow and gentle songs must come from a reasonably gentle and introspective songwriter. I imagine that he just can’t be arsed with a lot of the hassle, ego and bullshit that comes with having to thrust not only one’s music, but one’s personality, one’s very being under people’s noses in order to get noticed. Look at me, listen to me, I’m the best, not him, not them, but me. It’s not very dignified is it, but that is pretty much the way it is. Same as anywhere else; law of the jungle.

Of course, it could easily be that the vast majority of the population have cloth ears and no taste.

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I may be completely wrong, but I have tried to follow his career closely over the last fourteen years and self-promotion is not his strong point. So, it’s down to the faithful to do it for him. For instance, he released a download only album back in January. He hinted as much on his myspace, but there is no link. You have to go searching. It’s called Part of Your Life and I found it here. I still haven’t grasped the concept of downloads. I know I’ll succumb at some point, but hope that it gets a CD or vinyl release before then. It contains last night’s opener, Kids Steal Feelings, which you can hear below. Apologies for the background hiss, and no, that whistling at the beginning isn’t me! It’s a lovely song and shows that he’s lost none of his “knack of writing songs that sound like they’ve been constructed just before dusk on a river bank”. That quote was by Tom Cox from his Observer review of Matt’s 2005 Wake Up the Moths. It sums up Matt’s music perfectly.

Matt played several tracks from Moths last night including covers of Brian Protheroe’s Pinball and Bill Fay’s Release is in the Eye plus his own Feeling that I’m Falling. He has also been writing with Chris Difford, and played a couple last night. You could almost dissect the Difford from the Deighton, yet the contrasting styles made a good marriage.

Villager was well represented with the wonderful Pure English Honey, plus Bone Dry Boat, Hey My Mind and the title track (see below). Though I didn’t take notes, I don’t recall a single piece from You Are The Healer, which was a shame.

I have been researching Bert Jansch this week, as three of his post-Pentangle solo albums are being reissued. Bert is rightly revered these days as a genius, innovator and inspiration to today’s generation of young musicians alongside the likes of Nick Drake, Davey Graham and John Martyn, yet his 1973 Moonshine album sunk without trace. This was when he was a big cheese, before Californian coke-fuelled rock, glam and punk buried folk, seemingly forever. Sometimes things just get lost. I so hope that Matt isn’t mothballed, a la Vashti Bunyan, until somewhere around 2028 (as Tom Cox mused) when some kids who are munching on Farley’s Rusks as I write this start saying, “my biggest inspiration is Matt Deighton, utter genius”.

Unless, of course, Matt is perfectly happy with it that way. As someone once said, “thank you for the music”. I mean it, Matt.

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