Live Review: Matt Turk at Genghis Cohen

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Material: Matt Turk’s lyric heavy, slow-paced songs have folk foundations, but incorporate other genres like gypsy jazz and old-timey country. Turk hits his stride in his emotional folk tunes, replete with plucking mandolin riffs and warm acoustic chords. “Battle Song” and “Sorrow Is Loud” possess vintage qualities, and he should aspire to write more songs in that vein. “What a Boy,” an upbeat reggae tune, and “In Her Smile,” a ballad of sorts, disrupts the cohesiveness of Turk’s folk sound, which begs for the bare minimum.

Musicianship: Turk is no stranger to the mandolin or acoustic guitar. He is a solid rhythm player with dynamics, but could
 use more vocal training because his quieter notes and falsetto often veer off pitch. Henderson holds down the groove and plays with emotion, gelling with Markmann’s firm bass lines. Markmann plays in the pocket and lets the light shine on Turk, while Pinnella does not. While a talented player, Pinnella has one volume—loud—which doesn’t fit Turk’s sound. He needs to adapt to play and fit the genre. Ziggy’s ominous organ riffs add a warm darkness to the material.

Performance: To celebrate the release of his new album, Cold Revival, Turk played it in its entirety to an intimate crowd. Unfortunately, the performance was disjointed because of the inclusion of various genres that don’t mesh with Turk’s folk roots. His vocals suffered when he sang too close to the microphone, which muffled his lyrics. While the band added girth, the material called for simplification. A solo acoustic performance would have done more justice to his material. Each time Pinnella soloed, he drowned out the band with wah-induced vibratos and arena rock antics.

Turk finally fell into a groove in the final songs of the set, which harkened back 
to twangy, emotional, old folk tunes. The relaxed acoustic guitar riffs, with wisps of airy keyboards, complemented the verbose lyrics that illustrated personal stories. Turk closed the night with “In Her Smile,” which would have been richer if more harmonies were added.

Summary: Turk aims to please, but doesn’t quite hit the mark. Simplifying the material and focusing on old-fashioned folk will make his sound more cohesive. If this artist sticks to his singer/songwriter roots, his performance will only benefit.

The Players: Matt Turk, guitar, mandolin, vocals; David Henderson, drums; Rick Markmann, bass; Dan Pinnella, guitar; Ziggy, keyboards.

– Vincent Stevens