Always on My Mind
The track, Always on My Mind, is available via:
Folk; Alternative; Indie
The album, Carnival of Fools, is available via:
8th September, 2017
ON this occasion…
I am taking my mind in different directions and looking at an artist who compels new lines of investigation. I am changing pace and looking at an artist, Phil Matthews, and a musical project that is growing and creating delight. The Village (or ‘thevillage’) is the moniker of Matthews and one that I have discovered quite recently. Before I review a song from his latest album, I wanted to look at records that grow and develop over time; music that is Folk-based and looks at something quite pastoral, quaint and calming; a look at artists who are building their reputation and growing a steady fanbase; a nod to musicians who cannot be easily predicted and are surprising when you hear them – I will look at where the Village might head and what comes next. My review schedule has been thrown into a loop and I have had to chop-and-change things recently. Even though I was going to review the Village’s album in a few weeks; it is a year old and a record that has been out there in the public long enough. I do not review albums but I was interested to review Matthews and his music. We are often told the album, as a concept, is dying and should be ignored. I have been thinking about that proposition and how we are starting to ignore albums in-full. Matthews, as the Village, prides himself on creating records that are complete, immersive and every song shines – he is one of those old-school artists who loves the album and creating something whole. The reason why I am not too bothered coming to Carnival of Fools late is because the songs shine and reveal themselves through time. Even through the pace, for the most part, is quite enticing and settled; there are nuances and revelations that do not instantly come to the fore. It is wonderful discovering an album that does that: it flourishes and blooms so long down the line and stays firmly in the head.
Songs on the record bubble and still have that charm whilst ones you might have overlooked are firmly golden and presenting fresh avenues. I have always loved the album and do not feel it is endangered and warrants any talk of extinction. It is brilliant finding artists who are more concerned with musicians who want to produce albums and give the listeners something solid and personal. Listen to the Village’s new (or most-recent) record and you will find yourself coming back to the thing time and time again! It is, as I shall investigate later, an album that has softness and pleasure but there is ample invention and interesting lyrics. I do not usually review artists with few high-resolution photos – although Matthews has a few – and relatively little information. I always look for artists who can produce great images – a selection of them – and some deep and stunning information. It gives me something to build on and I can go from there. It is not a big problem here (and a lot of artists are struggling to piece that together) because the album itself is rich and I struggled for a while to select a single track that represents Carnival of Fools. The album, as I have stated, is bursting with ideas and I feel one needs to investigate it in its entirety to get the biggest impact. Although I have singled a song out and wanted to focus on Always on My Mind; I suggest you all pick up the L.P. and spin it right the way through. I do not feel albums are dying and there is any risk they are going to slip away at all. What gets to me is how little patience people give to records and the fact many jut pass them by and focus on singles. Artists need their albums to be heard and do not want people to simply skim through and select the odd track. There is a National Album Day coming up in a week and it will provide a chance for us to celebrate the album and all bond with those that have defined our lives.
It has been a while since I last reviewed a Folk album. Although the Village is not purely Folk; that is the basis – although there is Pop and Psychedelic touches here and there. The Village, as Matthews claims, is a place for oddballs and outsiders; it is a space where they can feel safe and understood. Maybe that is a bit harsh and off-putting but, in fact, it is a place for those who want to get away from the rush and stress of modern-day life. Matthews has built up a following in the Midlands’ live circuit and I will look at that a bit later. He has cemented his reputation and honed his skills over the past few years. The music one hears on Carnival of Fools is quite slumber-inducing and inviting. I dived into the record and was blown away by all the sounds that came through. It is a tender and personal presentation but one that is filled with scenes, dreams and the serene. Whether you see the Village as a concept and specialised place; you cannot ignore the music is universal and easy to love. I have avoided looking at Folk-inspired music for a while because I tend to find the artists (I reviewed) sound very alike and I repeat myself when writing reviews. There is pleasant Pop that scores carnival tents and the rush of the fair. There is the quiet chatter and the softness of the village; the tenderness of a fete and something quite serene working away. Opposed to that is a musical excitement and vivid scenes that suggest something a bit more edgy and exciting. You do not often see albums that address these themes/emotions being proffered in the mainstream. Maybe we are too concerned with Pop and Alternative sounds – and that which is concerned with commercial avenues – but we cannot ignore artists creating something more sophisticated, calm and interesting.
I will move onto a new subject in a bit but I wanted to stick with Folk and how varied the genre is. Phil Matthews has spent years developing his music and getting to where he is now. I have not mentioned age – because it seems a bit coarse – but it is something that needs addressing. Although Matthews is not as young as he once was, I feel we need to mention artists who are not considered ‘trendy’ and ‘cool’ by the media. Perhaps Matthews does not care about that but there is ageism and exclusion in music right now. It has always been the way and it is not a new revelation. Radio has always been stuffy when it comes to middle-aged artists and they are less keen playing their music. Maybe BBC Radio 2 would be a natural space for Matthews and the Village but I wonder why all radio stations cannot get over age limitations and feel that, when an artist gets to a certain point in life, they are past it and consigned to the scrapheap. That sounds rather foreboding and cruel but I feel artists like Matthews warrant more attention and age gets in the way of things. Look at the experience he has and the way he writes; how engrossing the music is and the way it takes you by surprise. Most of the submissions I receive are from artists in their twenties and thirties and that seems to be what is sought-after and popular. I feel a lot of respect should be given to artists who do not have flashy P.R. teams and shiny websites; those that are performing at big venues with flashy sets and getting onto the coolest websites. Music is about image as much as anything as it seems age is a huge factor when it comes to focus. I feel music should only be based on quality and, when you listen to the Village; one cannot ignore the quality that emerges and how promising it all is. Maybe I have rambled a bit but I feel an artist should not be ignored or restricted to certain radio stations when they reach a certain age.
Matthews, as I said, has built his name in the Midlands and has been on the circuit for a long time now. Over two-hundred radio stations have played his music and he has a loyal and growing fanbase. Although one, on Carnival of Fools, is given projections of bunting and village carnivals; that is not to say the music is reserved for those who are found in those environments. What strikes me about the music of the Village is how ubiquitous and wide-ranging it is. Matthews is not singing only about villagers and the quaint pace of fetes and outdoor activity. His music dips deeper and the lyrics stretch further than you might imagine. That is one reason why he has built a big foundation and continues to reach new ears. People assume you have to pack out places and be on streaming sites – and getting millions of streams – to be deemed worthy and popular. Matthews has a great following and radio stations around the nation have turned onto his music. It has been a fabulous past few years and, with Carnival of Fools, it got a lot of attention and love. Even recently, he tweeted how delightful it is when someone asks for one of his C.D.s. That sort of reaction – when musicians are taken aback – shows how much things mean and the assumptions they have. I feel we get into a mindset where we assume everything is digital and people go after what is on Spotify. Matthews continues to plug and he is one of the hardest-working musicians on the road right now. He knows his music has that easy grace and cannot be pegged that easily. I am excited to see where he goes next and where his music will take him. I feel Matthews has the potential to take the Village to the cities and take it around the world. Maybe you assume his Britishness is the defining feature of the music but everyone anywhere can understand what he is performing and picture what is being sung.
This place for oddballs, the Village, is somewhere just south of convention and not a place where chart-makers and trend-setters might step. A reason why Phil Matthews gets into my head is because he cannot be easily predicted and written about. You might see photos of him and read his biography and feel you have it licked and figured. I got into that headspace and felt I would easily be able to write about him and what his music is all about. You only need listen to a few cuts from Carnival of Fools to figure the Village is a much more complex and interesting beast than you would imagine. The best musicians out there are those who can bring you in and do not push you away but have their own skin and do not follow the pack. I wonder whether Matthews has plans for new music next year because I feel the demand is growing right now. I feel music is too much about style and a sense of fashion and not enough about reputation and longevity. Matthews has built this base and continues to recruit people in. His live sets are fantastic and lauded and the records he puts out are filled with details, great scenes and wonderful memories. Maybe the population of the Village is expanding but I feel more radio stations need to get involved with what he is doing and how his music is perceived. I feel we still devalue artists of a certain ilk and age and we are missing out on so much! Before I move onto my last point; I wanted to address the visual presentation and marketing – how that can be increased or changes that can be made to get it to new hands. Many do not really consider it or might be wrapped up with the music itself and have little opportunity to think about websites and presentation etc.
It is a point I have made with a few artists in the past – and got my arse chewed once or twice! – but I feel one way of getting the music to a wider realm is to have a look at the images and website etc. It might sound shallow and insignificant but you can reach a lot more people when you think about these considerations. Matthews has a big fanbase but his music warrants a lot more love and exposure. His official website is updated and looks good but I wonder whether more biography and some review snippets would catch the eye of potential fans and radio stations. I want to know who Phil Matthews is inspired by and where his musical path started. The photos I have included in this review are good and of a great quality but, given the concept of Carnival of Fools and images one summons; the musician could run riot with that and produce a lot of new snaps. The same goes for a P.R. company. I am not sure whether he is being represented by anyone but I think a good team could get him some more images and add something to the website; bring new light and life to his music and push it hard to other stations. I might be one to talk – I need to sort my website out a bit! – but there is so much promise; that ability to get the music to other age groups and new realms. There is that domination of Pop and what is in the mainstream and anything on the boundaries is not given the same heat and affection. In order for music to survive and albums to be treated with more respect; we need to start opening our eyes and broadening our horizons. I have been caught by the variation out there and never limit myself to certain genres/sounds. The Village is a moniker that offers so much and has a lot more life left. I know Matthews performs regularly and he wants his music to reach as many people as possible.
Perhaps he will consider those aspects/suggestions for 2019 because I am keen for his music to pick up new waves and traction. Right now, looking at Carnival of Fools a little whole after its release, I wanted to make a few points. If you feel you have the Village figured out and know what the Folk-tinged sounds will involve; you listen hard and your expectations are subverted. I will wrap things up here and get down to the song but I feel it is amazing how narrow our tastes can be and how we peg artists too readily. Phil Matthews has that gentle and comforting sound but he is not someone who, in a way, shows his age and there is plenty of endeavour and excitement. His lyrics are far more intriguing and arresting than you might imagine and the whole experience is wonderful. I feel we should all snap up the album and build it in to our regular rotation. One other reason why I feel the Village could build and gain new fans is the timelessness of the songs. Not every track on Carnival of Fools is about love and matters of the hearts – there is imaginative diversions and tracks that step away from the familiar. In any case; I am interested to see where Phil Matthews takes his music next year and what he might come up with. It is a great time for him and, when I look at his Twitter feed; I can tell how people are taking his music to heart and how popular it is proving. Maybe he will look at his website and getting his sounds out to new markets but, in truth, he is doing brilliantly as it is. The man has been in the business far longer than I have and knows what he is doing! I know his audience is quite broad in terms of age but I think there are so many more people who would turn on to his record and what he is putting out into the world. Keep your eyes on his social media feed – and his official website – and see where the Village heads next.
You can definitely hear the croak and gravitas of Bob Dylan when Always on My Mind comes up. I got flavours of Traveling Wilburys (the supergroup Dylan was in) and that sort of sound. The hero saw this girl that has been seen as distant but is always there. The heroine, it seems, wants our man to be the one who to pass on some advice. The girl is nice, it is said, but I wondered what he meant by the opening verse. I wonder what the ‘advice’ alludes to and how they both met. Matthews’ voice holds so much potency and weight; there is colour and candour and you are instantly fused to the lyrics. Maybe the girl feels like she is too lonely and wants someone to hang with. It seems, right away, this is a sweetheart relationship and more than friendship. In the same way old masters like McCartney can still write about love in fresh and interesting ways; Matthews presents something alluring, original and surprising. Matthews looks at the girl and knows how she feels isolated and in need of sanctuary. This advice she is looking for seems to be romantic, perhaps, or maybe she required some wisdom and guidance. I get the sense of someone who has been cast adrift and has been fighting the tide for a while now. The composition is fairly simple but it is the perfect accompaniment to the lyrics. There is a pleasing beat that gives the song strike and passion whilst the guitar provides gentleness and tender allure. The hero is stepping between an honest and comforting presence and someone who wants a little more than, in the words of McCartney, “casual conversation”. It seems like this girl has made an impression on the hero but he is fighting a rival. The affections of the girl are being split between Matthews and an unnamed man.
The hero wishes she could be his alone but, as things often go, there is complexity and other jostling for her heart. The melody and gentle swoon of the song catches the heart and gets you calm but, when you listen to the lyrics, there is a lot of pain and pining emerging. What gets to me is how you get these impressions of Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney but are never too attached when you look at influence. Matthews has a bit of Dylan’s gravel and vocal sound whilst, lyrically, there is a bit of McCartney working away. Rather than stick too closely to them, you get this new and personal concoction that gives Always on My Mind much more weight and truth. The themes will ring true with a lot of people and it is the straightness and directness of the words that makes the song shine. Our hero can only watch and wonder whilst he says the girl going off with another man. He has a heavy heart and wonders why things cannot be different. Maybe this intrigue and yearning has been there for a while and, who knows, maybe he and the girl have a history together? I think there is more at work than an instant attraction and fresh encounter: there are roots and seeds that have been planted years ago and it seems like there is history to this history. Rather than cast anger out and give the song acidity; Matthews keeps his head and heart level and keeps his cool. The woman treats him like he is not there and ignores him somewhat. These pains and ignorances get to him but there is still that hope things might be different. You can never write things off and say they will not happen but things are tricky right now. Matthews’ voice holds so much conviction and I love how the composition changes and evolves. You have this backbone that lurches and drives through but, soon enough, another guitar line comes out and gives the song new electricity and ache. The spirit of Dylan and McCartney is never too far from view but, as I say, you never feel like these icons are too encroaching and dominant. Phil Matthews writes from his own heart and, because of that, Always on My Mind wins you easily and stays in the head. It seems like the hero himself is the lonely one – although he says he is feeling fine – and he definitely needs that company. I wonder how things worked out and whether the heroine of the song changed her mind and went to the hero. It is a frustrating tale of lust and unrequired affection; something we can all relate to and get behind.
Phil Matthews has been in music for nearly five decades and has written for a lot of different artists. He has been in bands since he left school and Matthews himself has been covering quite a lot of ground since he discovered music. After building up a collection of songs for bands and having all this material in his pocket; he went solo and formed the Village. Matthews records and plays the instruments himself and has been steadily putting out material since then. Although the Village has been around for about four years; it seems like the natural space for Matthews and where he is most comfortable. Perhaps I was being a bit harsh and judgmental when I said his biography was a bit scant. In fact, when you look at his official website, you get backstory and discover where he came from. It is amazing to see how he has evolved and where his career started. I am not sure what the next step is but Matthews will continue to record music and get out there. So much of today’s music is about how many times a song has been streamed and, although Matthews’ music has reached far and wide; should we look at Pop and mainstream artists more because of some flawed measure of popularity?! I think music and the market needs reorganising so we can put the Village on the same platform/level as a big Pop name. Matthews himself is a sort of cross between Sir Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan. He definitely gets guidance from those legends but there is plenty of energy and personal D.N.A. in his tracks. I selected Always on My Mind because it is one of the most accessible tracks from Carnival of Fools and I think Matthews himself counts it as a favourite. If you have not subjected yourself to the wonders of the Village and got involved with Carnival of Fools; make sure you rectify that and get involved. I am keen to see where Phil Matthews goes in 2019 and whether another album comes along. I am a recently new convert to his music and am looking back at what he has done. Carnival of Fools is an album that promises one thing when you look at its cover and name but, when you dive down, it provides so many more colours and themes. I love what Matthews does and how his music makes you feel. Have a listen to the great songwriter and make sure you spend the proper time to…
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