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Matt Williams

Those he was born and bred between Charleston and Myrtle Beach in the small coastal town of Georgetown, North Carolina, this perplexing and idiosyncratic singer/songwriter’s career only began to take off after he relocated to the music (and barbecue) mecca of Austin, Texas.

A lifelong devotee of The Beatles’ psychedelic period as well as the sanctified wail of soul men like the Reverend Al Green and Prince, Williams formed an indie rock band with his brother called Irene’s Kitchen, and – not long after graduating high school – was playing road gigs throughout the region. While that group folded after 4 years, he had learned what it took to earn some sort of a living (and win over crowds) playing his own music, and he’s now able to bring that knowledge to bear in his current incarnation as an eclectic, sinewy R & B crooner with a strong roots-rock influence.

Of late, he’s been honing his talent at established Austin watering holes and listening rooms like The Saxon Pub and the New Braunfels Museum of Art and Music. He’s now embarking on his first major road trip since releasing his debut solo album Let’s Work It Out.

That indie CD (featuring a stellar cast of Austin-ites who’ve at times backed up everyone from Aretha Franklin and James Brown, to the Allman Brothers and Burning Spear. That’s a wide swath of American pop history to dive into, and Williams does it with gusto. His high, almost falsetto vocals ring out with a mixture of seductive bravado and mysterious urgency that no doubt helped lead one Texas radio host to liken his delivery and potential to that of another nascent club act (who’s since turned superstar), Norah Jones.

While its debatable whether or not Williams has the talent or the stamina to scale the same heights as Jones, one thing is for certain – he’s already impressing other established Austin musicians and critics, and that’s one heck of an accomplishment in itself.

Remarking on the eclectic nature of his debut album, Williams (who cites Bob Dylan and Randy Newman as songwriting heroes) offers, “I really love songwriters who write quirky, interesting, yet catchy songs. I love the combination of a strong melody, a great beat and weird, but engaging lyrics." Tues., 8 pm, The Sentient Bean.

The Peelers

After first establishing themselves in Savannah at one popular downtown Irish Pub, this hopped-up Canadian band (which draws on both the bandmembers’ Scottish and Irish heritage) made the not wholly-unexpected transition to their current venue, a club more known for punk, metal and rockabilly acts than traditional Celtic groups.

That’s understandable since The Peelers’ take on traditional melodies and subject matter is decidedly rock-oriented, and at times borders on sweaty, mosh-worthy punk.

Describing themselves as a “rumbustious folk-rock-punk revival act” don’t you just love that word rumbustious?), the KirkHill Glengarry County natives have become a sought-after booking throughout North America.

Wit an unhinged verve that succeeds in recalling both The Pogues and – at times – The Clash, (while maintaining the nationalistic fervor that typifies much contemporary Celtic rock), this manic sextet is one of the hottest tickets in town. Their frontman told me once that he and his mates aspired to create a group that’s “like hearing your favorite drink.” He says they’ve succeeded. Celebrate a 2nd St. Patrick’s Day next Wednesday, and see if you agree. Wed., June 29th, The Jinx.


Hazel Virtue

This has been a weird year for this hard-working alternative rock act whose members are split between the Charleston and Savannah areas. By that I mean to say that they’ve been dealt plenty of jokers as well as a few wild cards.

The question now is: how exactly will they play this hand?

Anytime a key member leaves a functioning group it’s cause for alarm and worry. Yet, despite the departure of guitarist Scotty Mitchell, the quartet regrouped, and soldiered on as a leaner, meaner 3-piece. Frontman/guitarist Eric Britt, bassist Shannon Woods and drummer Mark Kuhlman have also been spending plenty of time and money up in Nashville tracking the follow-up to their acclaimed indie release of a few years back, The Face And The Shine, which was helmed by Sparklehorse producer Alan Weatherhead.

These sessions are being funded by Sony who may or may not wind up releasing them, but regardless, Britt tells me the band plans to press CDs themselves if a label deal fails to materialize, so the tracks will see the light of day.

In the meantime, anyone interested in seeing what all the fuss is about can get an earful of the group’s intelligent, well-arranged and increasingly mature songs this weekend at one of their favorite Savannah haunts. Sat., Finnegan’s Wake.

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Jim Reed

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Connect Today 10.21.2016

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