Matt Bauer, a Kentucky-born recording artist and songwriter, is awaiting the release of his second album, The Jessamine County Book of the Living (Crossbill Records, June 7, 2011). Bauer’s style could be described as neo-industrial folk, and his vocal delivery can best be articulated as a raspy whisper that makes Bill Anderson sound like a hardcore screamer. The album is a ten-song venture into experimental sound that mixes the bluegrass twang of a banjo with the ethereal sounds of an orchestra that seems as though it slipped into Kentucky’s own Mammoth Caves, spiraled into hell and is now playing its way out. In fact, the inspiration for the album comes from the natural landscape and world that is so prevalent in most of Kentucky.
Bauer’s album starts with the cascading, “Useless is Your Armor,” that takes the listener on a fantastical journey, from a haunting dawn on a mountain to the metaphorical armor that protects our egos. The lyrics blend and entwine with the steady rhythm that slowly builds to a pounding climax before descending back into oblivion. “Poplar Trees” is a song reeking of Appalachia and a meeting of bluegrass with Japanese folk music. The simple lyrics and rhythm of the banjo pluck and whisper out an evocative image of time steady and unstoppable. Another stand out song, from Bauer’s album, is the almost gothic, “All the Wolves that I’ve Known.” The song brings into light the beauty in pain and the struggle in success, with lyrics like, “It’s almost a horror/ How joy springs up and chokes the dark.”
Matt Bauer might never be a pop sensation or even a household name with the artistic expressions found on The Jessamine County Book of the Living; however, those music listeners who truly respect artistic integrity and venture off the beaten path of musical tastes may just find a diamond in the rough with Matt Bauer. It is extremely difficult not to respect an artist who takes the chances and pushes the boundaries of music that Bauer does. You will either love or hate this music — there is very little in between. So decide for yourself and check out this album.