I had the privilege of seeing the latest evolution of one of the finest musicians in New England the other night. It was at a benefit party/concert at King's Lumber's airfield in Wentworth, NH. Bob King and his partner, whose name I've sadly forgotten, played, and then me, and it finished up with Matt Smart's band. Bob and his friend were very good, and the audience was very kind to me, thank you very much. The benefit was for the Warren/Wentworth Ambulance Service.
The first time I met Matt he was about 19 and already sounded like Stevie Ray Vaughn. I don't mean just played the notes, I mean he did it with real soul. That was probably ten years ago, and he's done nothing but improve since.
He hung around with me and the band I was in for a while, back when Chris Sweeney and I were playing as The Flexibles. He liked the variety of music we did, but he's always been primarily a modern blues man. Last night I saw a more mature artist, but one who is still stretching out. He's left the SRV clone behind and is working more from a modern Southern Rock stance, channelling Duane Allman and Steve Gaines from latter Skynyrd.
He started the night on a Les Paul, but quickly switched to a Telecaster, which he's clearly more comfortable with. He's also taken the step of being this band's lead singer, and he's not bad. Al Boucher played great drums, and I believe the bass player's name was Fish, and he was very good as well. Plus, Bob King joined them on second guitar, but I don't think he's a regular member of the group.
As far as rock guitar goes, the only serious competition to Matt is Mike Bottigio of Cobalt Blue, and Mike's got about twenty years on Matt. Mike is simply incredible; a Hendrix disciple but with his own distinct voice. That is something that Matt doesn't have quite yet, but it's coming. He's an incredible player, but he hasn't hit that Carlos Santana/Phil Keaggy identifiability yet.
And yes, I know there are guitarists out there who have a lot more technique than Matt, Mike, or any other rock and roller. But if rock and roll is your music, these are the guys that everyone else in New England has to answer to. And dat's de name o' dat tune.