Well, there’s a title for you. “Woodstock” was the song Iain Matthews, post-Fairport Convention, took to the top of the UK charts 53 years ago. Neither he nor his band, Matthews Southern Comfort, actually played at Yasgur’s Farm the year before, but, this side of the pond, it became the best-known version of Joni Mitchell’s song. The band actually fell apart within a year; Matthews was uncomfortable with the fame and bored with the pedal-steel-drenched country tropes now expected of him. Instead, he plowed on with a solo career and with another band, Plainsong.
Plainsong broke up and later reformed, and in 2010, Matthews decided to do the same for Matthews Southern Comfort. He’s since flitted between the three versions of himself, pursuing whatever suits him, under the brand it might suit best. (You might recall he, as Plainsong, covered the songs of Richard Farina with Andy Roberts on 2015’s Re-inventing Richard.) For The Woodstock Album, he has chosen the Matthews Southern Comfort moniker.
The idea behind The Woodstock Album was to pick a selection of artists who played at Woodstock, and some of the iconic songs they played there. Given that Matthews’ metier is very much of a folk-tinged country/country-tinged folk, these would neither ape nor echo the originals, but would hopefully give a fresh new spin on the material. Given many of the songs are not without some considerable covers history, this might be conceived a brave idea, especially as the tracklist becomes apparent. Let’s see.