Like most `heritage’ rock acts, Cape Breton blues/rocker, Matt Minglewood, questioned the value of recording a new album. The current state of affairs within today’s music industry, a lack of sales, free downloading and streaming, virtually no retail outlets and very little radio exposure does not create the right environment to pop out a new release.
Yet within the confines of The Matt Minglewood Band, there had been a seismic shift in attitude. Former members, who had become jaded with the regular circuit of blues festivals and casinos, playing the same old set list, have been replaced by new members who have injected a sense of energy and enthusiasm into the band’s performance.
“Band members are smiling, they want to play, they want to rehearse, there is so much enthusiasm being generated,” reported Minglewood. “So I felt we needed to capture this enthusiasm on record and so we went into Cape Breton’s Lakewind Sound studios and recorded `Fly Like Desperados.’
With help from new members; Jeff Stapleton (keyboards), Emily Dingwall (bass), drummer Moon McInnis and his 17-year old son, Nick McInnis (guitar) and additional support from two former players; Mike Little (Hammond organ) and Roly Platt (harmonica), Minglewood has produced his first album since `The Story’ released in 2005.
It’s not that Minglewood has been creatively inactive during this period. He has continued to write songs with tours to Afghanistan (twice), Abu Dhabi, Egypt and Israel providing fodder for songs like “Kandahar” and “Broken Dreams”. And as he approached his 70th birthday, Minglewood felt he should mark this significant occasion with a new recording.
And to these ears, `Fly Like Desperados’ ranks as one of Minglewood’s strongest recording achievements, a strong balance of rock r&b tracks, a couple of infectious blues workouts with two killer ballads which effectively project Minglewood’s distinctive vocals.
Highlights include the album’s lead off single, “Amsterdam”, a love song to his long-suffering wife/manager/booking agent, Barb. It’s a song that reflects a fresh instrumental approach from the band.
“Closer To Heaven”, a cover of a Rodney Crowell recording, came to Minglewood’s attention via Holger Peterson, president of Edmonton-based Stony Plain Records, who awarded Matt his 2015,Toronto Blues Society’s prestigious Maple Blues Award.
“Holger gave me a copy of Stony Plain’s 35th Anniversary compilation record which contained “Closer To Heaven,” explained Minglewood. “I am a big Rodney Crowell fan but I wasn’t familiar with this particular track. So as I am playing the CD in my truck, I am hearing this song and I found I could totally identify with the lyric. So I thought I had to run this song through the Matt Minglewood meat grinder and do my own version.”
As with “Closer To Heaven”, there’s a reflective nature about some of the material. An artist looking back at a career that was launched when he initially joined forces with another Maritime luminary, Sam Moon to form the Moon-Minglewood Band, famous for their Stax-inspired revue performances back in the early Seventies.
Songs like “Soft Place To Fall”, the infectious “Yourself To Blame” and even the fun “Young And Dumb” ( containing a line poking fun at Donald Trump), position an artist reflecting on past triumphs and the hardships he has endured in surviving along the way.
“Kandahar”, Minglewood’s most recent single, provides an account of his two trips to Afghanistan in 2005 and 2009 to entertain the troops. With classic lines like “You ain’t at Camp Borden, you ain’t in your car, keep your head down, you’re in Kandahar.”, Minglewood graphically described the conditions Canadian troops faced while on duty in Afghanistan.
“At one point during our second visit, we were on stage when we got a report that a rocket had been launched against us,” noted Minglewood. “So we had to instantly drop our instruments and run for the bunkers.”
While at the camp, Minglewood noticed that while the Canadian soldiers appeared to be mostly veterans, a lot of the American troops seemed to be young kids, thus prompting “Broken Dreams”. “I was dumbfounded by how young they were and this thought came to me. Whoever had a dream to send these kids over here, it was a broken dream.”
The album has it’s lighter moments; “Do It For Jesus” is a pisstake on televangelists with Minglewood launching into a tongue-in-cheek rap sermon and for the faithful, there’s more traditional blues faire like “Nova Scotia Boogey”,, “Weakness” and “Shackles And Chains”
“There are some people who have heard the record who prefer the old blues standards but there’s a lot of new fans who just love the direction this album takes,” enthused Minglewood. “A lot of credit has to go to the new band. Jeff (Stapleton) and Emily (Dingwall) give me vocal harmony support I didn’t have in the past and we even have a new guitarist who has just turned 17.”
“My drummer, Moon McInnis, told me I should check out his kid, Nick, who was only 15 at the time,”the Glace Bay resident continued. “So we invited him down to a soundcheck, he played “Me And The Boys” and he was so good we made him a regular member.”
Minglewood relived his past by rejoining Sam Moon to execute a series of Moon-Minglewood dates in 2016, (“It was a blast, getting together again, and playing all the old Stax hits”) but now it’s on to new business. An iconic Cape Bretoner who’s ability to pack venues with hard drinking Maritimers and blues fans is legendary, Minglewood and Co are preparing to promote the new opus with a major Oil Patch Tour of Western Canada this fall.
The legions of Martimers working the Oil Patch are drawn to his shows like magnets and Minglewood is set to augment classics like “Can’t You See”, “Me And The Boys” and “Some Day I’m Going To Buy Me A Cadillac” with new additions to his set list.
“What is great about this record is that there are no compromises like on previous records when we had to factor in what the major labels (RCA, Columbia) wanted,” concluded Minglewood. “Now I have the freedom to do what I want and how I want to do it. And I have a band now that wants to go out and play . It’s a totally re-energizing experience.”