Performer Andersen to bring unprocessed blues to Port Angeles stage next week
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International Blues Challenge winner Matt Andersen has Port Angeles on his calendar this Wednesday night. -- Photo by Tracey Savein/South Paw Productions

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — There’s nothing slick about Matt Andersen. This hulking singer from the rural Canadian town of Perth-Andover is the antithesis of polished, pop Pabulum. He relishes the road, revels in climbing up on a stage with his guitar and letting it fly.

Andersen will arrive here Wednesday night for a performance at the Little Theater at Peninsula College, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd.; his is another in the season of concerts presented by the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts. Show time is 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $12.

Reached for a brief telephone interview in Whitefish, Mont., Andersen got to the heart of the matter.

He chooses the blues because it’s raw emotion, “a pure form of music that hasn’t been ruined by much commercial influence.”

Of course, one could argue that many blues singers have enjoyed great success commercially. That doesn’t sway Andersen’s approach and delivery. He just keeps traveling, keeps writing songs and belting them out in a voice that matches his physicality.

Growing up in the maritime province of New Brunswick, Andersen was enveloped in hand-made music. His grandfather played the fiddle; his mother plays piano in church. Any family get-together brought nine or 10 fiddles or guitars into the room.

In concert, Andersen seeks to break down that wall between himself and the audience. He goes for a living-room feeling — some 175 nights a year.

And the singer is developing a devoted flock. His debut album, “One Size Never Fits,” was followed by “Solo at Session” and “Live at Liberty House.” He signed with Busted Flat Records to put out “Second Time Around,” “Something in Between” and “Piggyback,” a collaboration with harmonica player Mike Stevens. Next came “Live at the Phoenix Theatre” and a trip to Memphis for 2010’s International Blues Challenge.

Andersen became the first Canadian to win the Blues Challenge. He got right back on the road to tour with Old Crow Medicine Show; in 2011, he went up to Woodstock, N.Y., to record “Coal Miner Blues” at the Levon Helm studio.

Songs from his most recent two or three records fill out Andersen’s shows. There’s “Baby I’ll Be There,” a gospel-infused number and funky country blues like “Make You Stay,” as well as “Work Hard for the Luxury,” “Fired Up” and “Lay It on the Line.” Those songs from “Coal Miner Blues” tell the story of his upbringing.

“Perth-Andover’s a really small, family oriented community,” Andersen writes on his website. “Everybody knows everybody. My dad’s worked as a logger pretty much his whole life.”

Andersen got into music early on, playing tuba and trumpet in his school band. By the time he was a young teenager, he was playing guitar — classic rock and Top 40 — in pub bands.

One was called Stubby Fingers, and that moniker lives on as his Web address.

Andersen studied studio engineering for a while, but that was not to be his vocation.

He discovered the blues through Eric Clapton, then B.B. King, then the Chicago electric sound and then back to the Mississippi Delta singers.

“What really hit me most about the blues was its total honesty,” Andersen writes on his site, www.StubbyFingers.ca.

Today, his goal is simple: to give his listeners a good time, “a good night of music.” Connecting with the audience — “that buzz” — is what drives him.

His audiences feel it. At 2011’s Arts Northwest Conference, a showcase for music promoters in Eugene, Ore., Andersen did something rare.

“This conference brings together presenters and artists from throughout the country. Presenters hear as many as 70 performers over the course of the conference; each get 12 minutes,” recalled Dan Maguire, executive director of Port Angeles’ Juan de Fuca Festival.

“Matt Andersen received a spontaneous standing ovation from all those jaded presenters at the conference,” Maguire said.

“I’ve never seen that before or since.”

Nearly a year later, the festival director thought back to that day. When booking the season of concerts last summer, Maguire figured Port Angeles could use a dose of Andersen in January.

After his Port Angeles show, one in Kent and one in Elgin, Ill., the singer will set out for a long tour leg across eastern Canada. Then it’s off to Australia in the spring, the United Kingdom in June and more dates in Europe through the fall.

“All this is new territory,” he said.

“I love what I do.”

Andersen’s StubbyFingers.ca site has, of course, video footage and music to introduce the artist. True to Andersen’s style, it has just a bit of promotional copy, including words from a writer at Exclaim magazine. The CD title “Coal Miner Blues,” this critic says, reflects the singer’s approach to his career.

“There’s nothing fancy about what Andersen does,” the writer notes, “but his passion and commitment continue to win over loyal fans with each show.”

Tickets to Andersen’s concert are available at Port Book and News, 104 E. First St., Port Angeles, at Pacific Mist Books, 121 W. Washington St., Sequim, and at the Juan de Fuca Festival website, www.JFFA.org. Information can also be had by phoning the festival office at 360-457-5411 or visiting the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts page on Facebook.

Last modified: January 24. 2013 7:37PM
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