Every great city has its Artist That Will Not Die. London has the Rolling Stones, Toronto has Anvil, and Calgary has Lorrie Matheson. For a quarter century now Matheson has been a mainstay of the Western Canadian scene as a solo artist, a bandleader, a guest-star, a songwriter, a constant commentator, a resident curmudgeon, a den father, and lately as the go-to producer for artists looking for indie cred and a record that sounds effingreat.
His fourth solo LP “The Night is For Sleepers” displays Matheson in Laurel Canyon mode, crafting emotionally charged, atmospheric power-pop with roots and psychedelic edges. His cutting honesty hasn’t been dulled by time, but here it’s wielded by a more compassionate hand. Veteran fans of his live shows will recognize songs from the vault, transformed here by the crack rhythm section of Chris Dadge and Scott Munro into something warmer, richer, and deeper than they’ve ever heard them before.
Baseball stats: Matheson’s current projects in addition to his solo work are the rock bands Sons of Bears and Night Committee (with Hot Little Rocket’s Andrew Wedderburn). Past bands include Rocket Smog, The Brass Tacks, Thousandsticks, National Dust, Fire Engine Red and Anxious Poets. He has produced acclaimed and award-nominated albums by Rae Spoon, Samantha Savage Smith, Mark Davis, Reuben and the Dark, Hot Little Rocket, Ghostkeeper, and Jay Crocker, among countless others.
Lorrie Matheson has been a fixture on Calgary’s musical scene for many years since moving to Alberta from his native Saskatchewan. He reached a national audience for the first time with Fire Engine Red. Their 1995 album “1530”, with it’s Hüsker Dü and Buffalo Tom-influenced fuzz-pop spawned the single “Shank Pony”, which found its way into the rotation on MuchMusic.
In 1996, after Fire Engine Red disbanded, Matheson spent some time in Edmonton rock band Pal Joey before returning to Calgary to found roots powerhouse National Dust, which was rooted in his love for bands like the Replacements and Uncle Tupelo. They released two well-received albums. The first, “…blind luck ain’t no luck at all” (1998), received strong radio support in Calgary, and also received airplay at new rock station CFNY in Toronto. The second National Dust release, “Welcome To Utopia” (2000), made the top 10 charts at the non-commercial CKUA radio network in Alberta, the Canadian campus/community radio Top 50 chart, and received airplay on CBC Radio One.
Matheson joined former Fire Engine Red bandmate James Hayden in the Thousandsticks project, contributing keyboards and background vocals to the 2001 album “White Knuckled Midnight Drives“. He then released his first solo album, “You Should Know By Now“, in December 2002, when the Elvis Costello comparisons began in earnest. That album charted at #1 at CAPR (Sydney, NS), at #2 at CJSR (Edmonton), and also received extensive airplay at CJSW in Calgary. In 2002 and 2003, Matheson fronted The Yorkton Spokes, which primarily performed his songs.
Matheson’s second album, “A Dime At A Time“, was released in October 2004, an album he engineered, produced, and played all the instruments, save drums. It reached #1 at CJSW and received airplay and press coverage across Canada, as well as internationally on Web sites such as Americana-UK.com, and the success of that record sparked a long spate of touring with his backing band, the Brass Tax. A Dime At A Time was a nominee for Independent Album of the Year at the 2005 Western Canadian Music Awards.
2008 saw the release of a 4-song EP “Rebels United“, a collaboration with his 8 year-old friend, lyricist and vocalist Penn Poutanen. His latest album, out February 24, 2009 on the Saved By Radio/Saved By Vinyl imprint is entitled “In Vein“, a record Americana UK calls “a superior collection… an excellent album, well produced and adventurous”, and features the cream of the crop in Calgary’s music scene.
Since beginning his solo career, Matheson has had showcase opportunities at a number of significant showcases in Canada and the United States, including the South By Southwest festival in Austin, TX (2009 being the 4th appearance), the 2005 Alberta Scene event in Ottawa, the North By Northeast festival in Toronto (3 times), and the Western Canadian Music Awards (4 times). He has also performed at the Calgary Folk Music Festival (4 appearances), the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, the inaugural Sled Island festival in 2007, and JunoFest in 2008.
Matheson is also compiling a solid track record as a producer. He guided the young free-jazz group The Bent Spoon Ensemble through their debut recording, “None Nothing, Sometimes“, which reached #1 at CJSW in January 2004. His work with Jay Crocker on “Melodies from the Outskirts” resulted in that album reaching the Top 10 Jazz Album chart for campus-community radio in the spring of 2006. In 2007 he built his studio, Arch Audio, and christened it by producing the debut album from indie-rockers Ghostkeeper, entitled “Children Of The Great Northern Muskeg“, which spent much time on CBC Radio 3’s top 10 in 2008, and Rae Spoon’s third record, “Superioryouareinferior“, which ended up on many 2008 ‘best-of’ lists. Other album credits as either a musician or producer include Bil Hetherington and the Asian Tigers’ self-titled debut, Randy Hutchings’ “Atlantic Avenue” and Mike Plume’s “Rock and Roll Recordings”, among many others. Productions in the works as of January 2009 include new collections from Mark Davis, Scott MacLeod, Shane Ghostkeeper (solo), and Calgary post-punk stalwarts Hot Little Rocket.
He’s also entered into the film and television business, working on themes for CMT’s “Not Your Daddy’s Country”, a television spot for Calgary’s $100 Film Festival, and the NFB shorts, “Postmark”, and “The Corporate Ladder”.
Matheson has contributed material to compilations like “Hold Your Ground”, “Hold Your Ground 3: Enough”, “BYOP (Bring Your Own Plywood): Calgary Does Connors“, the first volume of the Drive-Through Record series, and “Tolerance: A Tribute to Grant Hart“. He hosted MuchMusic’s “Much Does Calgary” special in 2003, and appeared in the “Local Heroes” segment of CMT’s “Undiscovered Country” series.
Matheson is very active in the community in his hometown as well, teaching songwriting workshops for 9-to-17-year-olds for the Boys and Girls Club of Calgary and is the talent buyer at one of the premier independent music venues in the city, the Marquee Room.