In 2019, South Australian singer-songwriter Matt Ward released his debut album, Heartland. Based on a true story, it reached the #1 spot on the ARIA Australian Country album chart, debuted at #1 on the iTunes Country Album chart and has gone on to rack up over 140,000 streams worldwide.
Following a run of new singles in 2020 – including the bluesy rhythm and country rock of Tattoos, Trucks & Country Music and Old Ground, a sublime fiddle and pedal steel-assisted duet with Bonnie Montgomery that harks back to classic honky tonk and Western swing – Lost & Found is his first release of the year, and was inspired by adventure, country, and love – with a little bit of truth about one particular road trip from Austin to West Texas.
We caught up with Matt to find out what songs he’s listening to for this week’s Front Deck Boom Box.
Katie Brianna – Home
Regardless of genre, Katie is one of Australia’s finest songwriters. An artist that puts utmost emphasis on the song and continual improvement of her songwriting (rather than temporary fanfare or transient image), Katie has delivered big time with her latest album This Way or Some Other. The track Home captures Katie’s raw, honest songwriting with the world class production of Adam Young in a perfectly blended alt country song.
Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife – Not Like A Brother
Combining the warm, liquid sounds of world-class bands such as War on Drugs with grounded Australian sensibilities, You Be the Lightning was probably my favourite Australian album for 2020. You can tell when the artist, band and production team has clearly spent the time in pre-production and in the studio refining the sounds to ensure a sublime mix of tones, song dynamics and delivery. Often it’s about what you don’t play rather than what you do play. Not Like a Brother is just one of those songs in a collection of outstanding songs.
Allan Caswell & Arna Georgia – Holding on to Never Letting Go
Quietly chipping away from Sydney’s suburbs, Arna’s latest album Yes Girl has a smattering of great songs written by both Arna and co-writes with experienced hands such as Catherine Britt and Allan Caswell. Holding on to Never Letting Go is one of those extremely well-crafted country songs that makes you think you’ve heard it before – did Sheryl Crow write this? Kris Kristofferson? Allan Caswell often makes the challenging look easy and with Arna’s genuine country songwriting tendencies and often heartbreaking delivery, they’ve provided a killer chorus, great song and genuine ear worm.
Jesse Daniel – Rollin’ On
I sat on a bus to Graceland Hotel with Jesse Daniel and Jodi Lyford back in 2019 ahead of the Ameripolitan Awards. They were super warm and friendly folk, and that that stage I didn’t know much about Jesse or his music. Only can hour or so later I saw him deliver one of the best sets of honky tonk and outlaw country music I’d ever seen in my life. Hailing from California, Jesse has significant outlaw life experience to bring to his craft, not to mention brilliant playing and delivery. Rollin’ On was my favourite international album for 2020 – simply world class country music.
Caitlin Hartnett & The Pony Boys – 5am
Caitlin’s 2020 album Late Night Essentials is a soulful collection of songs that ooze the creative, boisterous and sometimes dark times of songwriters, touring musicians and inner city scenes across the world. 5am is the song for me that captures all of that. A consistent drive, raw lyrics and warm jangly guitars give it a timeless feel that is only enhanced by a hook that seems to draw you into the very heart from which Caitlin is writing from.