I know. It seems unfathomable. Comparing an up and coming artist to the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young should likely be considered blasphemy in the highest form. However when it comes to Matt Townsend the connection is not only accurate but further distinguishes him as possibly the most quintessential folk artist currently in the country.
Maybe it’s because Townsend starting writing songs at the age of 19? Possibly it’s his constant hustle, playing over 180 shows over the last two and a half years? Could it be the inclusion with the special Asheville Symphony Sessions collab that broadened his horizons? Whatever has formed Townsend’s career up to this point, it’s clear that with the release of The Drifter and the Dream (Part I) the North Carolina native has the talent and chops to not only capture the hearts and souls of his audience, but also make profound statements in his music while doing so.
The new EP is the first of a two-part crowdfunded series from the indie-folk artist. And honestly, I have great apprehension typing about it because I’m afraid I won’t do it justice. But here it goes.
The Drifter and the Dream (Part I) opens with “The Great American Madness,” a Bob Dylan-esque acoustic driven track that’s an attention grabber like no other.
The beautifully arranged song truly is simple yet groundbreaking. From “claims hatred as the cure,” to “the great american madness was not build within a day, but was built upon the backs of slaves through murderers by trade,” Townsend’s lyrics are transcendent, perfectly aligning themselves with a current social awakening the country hasn’t seen since the 60s. And it’s not just this song but a common theme throughout the EP.
“Came Down From The Mountain” not only opens with hypnotizing guitar and includes amazing strings (I’m a sucker for strings), but it immediately makes you want to stand up and fight against social injustice.
And there’s even “Freedom Is Calling Again,” possibly my favorite song on the EP, a track that, again, is beautiful and melancholy at the same time with incredibly powerful words that describe the dark side to America’s patriotism. It’s not only an incredibly marketable song but one that’s a hymnal chant for justice. It needs to be played on every indie rock station in the country.
Townsend self-proclaimed that The Drifter and the Dream (Part I) represents some of his “strongest work.” It’s easy to see why.
It’s folk-rock storytelling at it’s finest; It’s an EP with no true weak-links; It’s music which enables serious soul searching. There’s also cello. I love cello.
Townsend isn’t just an artist that needs to be on every listener’s radar. He’s Americana. And a perfect showcase of what it takes to take something simple and turn it into something magical.
I don’t remember the last time a collection of music had my attention so intently until the last note. The last note on The Drifter and the Dream (Part I) pushed me to a self-whisper of “holy s**t.”
When can we hear Part II?
Josh Helmuth is an editor for Crave and a longtime music lover whose first record was Eric Clapton. However, his first concert? That choice he will take to the grave.
Listen to The Drifter and the Dream (Part I) by Matt Townsend here.
Photo: Forest Wallingford