“What luck I had / To somehow draw you in,” Bay Area singer Matt Bauer croons in his song “Western States.” Listening to Nandina leaves its listener feeling just that – lucky. Hearing Bauer’s music on a rainy day makes you want to take off your soggy cowboy boots and sit, relaxing as this Kentucky native’s melancholic voice warms you dry. The soothing vocals, drifting, soft electric guitar and high-speed banjo plucking all have a relaxing influence over the listener. With sounds evoking traditional bluegrass and country, Bauer’s music is contemporary folk, reminiscent of leading genre artist Jolie Holland, and just as moving. These tracks are not sing-along songs, but shut up and mellow out tunes that force you to get caught up in the luxury of the music.
I would recommend listening to this CD after a tough day. Tracks like “Water Moccasin” and “Jordan in a Plastic Bag” would be suitable lullabies. Bauer’s poetic lyrics reveal anecdotes of love, small-town living and travel. Although Bauer’s lyrics have variety, the songs themselves are similar in their comforting. Perhaps Bauer’s folk melodies are not for everyone; but really, when was the last time you listened to someone bust loose on the banjo? This album not only promises to add some unique sound to anyone’s musical collection, but also send a satisfying chill of pleasure up the listener’s spine.
Despite the quality of the disc, it’s Bauer’s live performance capabilities that truly make him stand a head above the rest. Lucky for us, Bauer will be gracing Isla Vista with his presence tonight, performing at 9 p.m. at the BIKO Garage at 6612 Sueno Rd. If your cowboy boots are not too soggy, wear ’em out. Bauer is touring in support of his unreleased recording, which promises more variety – but just as much tenderness – as Nandina (along with some more face-paced, lively tunes that you’ll want to get up and dance to). After one listen, you just might “get to this love that [will be] found” in an indie gem of contemporary bluegrass and folk that is unique to our little community.
[Sophia Kercher’s boots were made for puddle jumpin’.]