Michael G. Batdorf
Music with mountains in mind
NEW ALBUM! BEYOND THE MASK
Based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, back home Batdorf has already released half a dozen or so solo albums as well as three as frontman for bar band One Ton Pig (the musicians from which also contribute here), but his name is yet to register on a national level let alone over on these shores. On the evidence of this, his latest, I’d say that’s long overdue.
He cites Guy Clark as one of his primary influences, and you can certainly hear that in the songs and voice, opening number Pushing In The Dirt taking you back to Clark’s first two albums with their dust road troubadour air. The same’s true of Matthew Brady Song, a first person narrative in the voice of the famed American Civil War photographer and the hard times into which he fell, and several others while the fiddle laced Murder In The Hole and, banjo notwithstanding, How Can You Sleep This Way evoke the fiery side of Dylan.
With people and places at the heart of his lyrics, he’s a highly accomplished storyteller and songsmith, whether addressing soulless contemporary Nashville in Music City ("I’ll be damned if I’ll be another name on the wall") with its Harlan Howard namecheck, the story of a backwoods girl who dies from eating hallucinogenic ‘shrooms in search of d0ivine wisdom to help her struggling family in the allegorical Destroying Angel (which, like the Appalachian blues Everything Came Down, features sterling mandolin solo by Tim Farris) or finding salvation through love in the Dylanish slow swaying Righteous Set Of Times. Even what at first seems a simple love song, Right There For Your Man comes with a bitter twist about those that need to be needed and those who don’t deserve to receive.
The nature of the media and the music business today being what it is, there’s many a reason why an act may never achieve more than a regional profile, and most are reasonably happy with being a big fish in a small pool, but with an artist of this calibre it’s almost a duty to spread the word from ocean to ocean. Bring on the climate change.
Mike Davies, February 2014 NetRhythms www.netrhythms.co.ukPurchase at CD Baby