Sound Scene Express

Matt Hires Brings the Wilderness to Pittsburgh

Matt Hires
w/ Volunteer
& Jordan McClaughlin
Club Cafe
October 30, 2016

Photos and review by Whitney Lerch

Matt Hires has been touring the country this fall to support his latest full length album “American Wilderness” and the next to last stop was Club Cafe in Pittsburgh. His tour has been supported by Nashville based Cory Quintard, who performs under the name Volunteer and the Club Cafe show was opened by local singer-songwriter Jordan McLaughlin. Jordan started off the night with a completely original, 6 song acoustic set (set list below). This was my first experience listening to Jordan and I wasn’t disappointed. He ended his set with “Leave a Light On”, which was my favorite of his set, with great guitar strumming and meaningful lyrics. He’s got a bit of a country flair to his sound, but that good, hearty kind of country, not that new country pop stuff that will certainly fade away.

Opening the show with “The World Is Ours”, Volunteer set the tone for the night. The dynamic, moving set, which also included “In The Unknown” and “The World Will Begin Again”, among others (full set list below) demonstrated Cory’s powerful talent and ability deliver deep and vulnerable lyrics with an often high energy and hopeful pop vibes. You can’t help but become completely captivated, from the first note. His songwriting is that of a poet and the melodies will warm your soul and leave you wanting for more.

Volunteer’s first EP, “The World Will Begin Again” can be found on iTunes and Spotify. The newest single, which is the title track of Volunteer’s latest and un(officially)released EP, “The World is Ours” can be as well. However, those who were graced with Volunteer’s performance at Club Cafe were able to take home a copy of the whole The World is Ours EP.

After a short break, Matt took the stage, solo, with his acoustic guitar to start his set off with a more intimate feel. Throwing it back to his earlier albums, he began with “When I Was Young”. If you’ve never heard Matt play a solo, acoustic set, you are truly missing out. It takes nothing more than his personal, raw lyrics, his acoustic guitar and that unwavering, distinguished voice (and his brilliant vibrato) to pull you into the moment. You can’t help but engage and truly feel every word he sings, as though he wrote the songs about your life. That is a talent that he carried forward and somehow perfected even more, with his latest album “American Wilderness”.

Next, the band joined him (which could easily be mistaken for Volunteer, until you realize Matt handed off the bass to Cory and took center stage) and they lit into American Wilderness. I thought we were going to get the entire album played through, start to finish. They led with track 1, “Fighting a Ghost”, followed by “Holy War” and then “Black River”, the second and third tracks on the album. Now, American Wilderness is a remarkable album, in its entirety. But “Holy War” and “Glory Bound” (which he played later in the set) are the two that resonate with me and I simply cannot get enough of them. They both, along with the rest of the album, display some of the most honest, vulnerable and risky songwriting I’ve heard. An audible monologue of the internal struggles that one has, as they grow into their own person and begin to explore their true thoughts, feelings and understanding about their spirituality and everything they’ve been taught through the years. Analyzing what it means to have faith, based on the actions of others. The realization that those other people, the way they choose live, has nothing to do with yourself and your own beliefs. It’s an internal battle that I’m certain we’ve all had, regardless of our upbringing, to varying degrees and these two songs, in particular, feel as though they were written from inside my own heart.

The sounds are new to me, but the words, the meaning, or at least my interpretation of them, are familiar, comforting and oddly reassuring, despite the lack of true direction and answers. Its a hopeful message that things can and will change and we can “Begin Again”. It’s a symbol of the rebirth, the growth and the change that is to come. The spiritual aspect of the record is a topic that, in general, is relatively taboo in today’s society. But in the face of America’s volatile yet sensitive state, Matt took to his guitar and wrote without regard to the judgement and criticism that we all encounter daily and what came of that is one of the most brutally raw collection of songs, that almost feels like a memoir and will leave us all feeling more whole after hearing.

As I stated earlier, it seemed as though we were about to hear the entire American Wilderness album live, but after the first three tracks, he started to mix it up a bit with some more of his previous work, with “A to B”, “Tangled Web” and more, peppering the night with a few more from the new album. With every show that I write about, you’ll notice that I’m always a sucker for a good cover. So, when Matt covered Joan Osborne’s “One Of Us”, a clearly deliberate selection that fit nicely with the overall theme of American Wilderness, it was definitely a highlight of the evening for me. As the evening was winding down, the entire band unplugged, left the stage and ended with an acoustic and unmiced version of “Restless Heart” that engaged the crowd and had everyone singing along. It was a perfectly intimate end to an incredible night of music.

Matt Hires Set list:
When I Was Young
Fighting A Ghost
Holy War
Black River
A to B
Signal In The Sky
The Tragedy of the Leaves
Tangled Web
Begin Again
Red Eye
You Are What You Are
One of Us (cover)
The Wilderness
Glory Bound
Restless Heart

Volunteer’s Set List:
The World Is Ours
Somebody’s Everything
In the Unknown
Waiting On You
See You Fly
The World Will Begin Again

Jordan McClaughlin setlist:
Braving the Storm
Bare Bones
It’s a Funny Thing
Into You
Sing Me to Sleep
Seasons Turn
Leave a Light On

Matt Hires


Jordan McClaughlin

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