Ask about the new generation of social justice music-makers and Crys Matthews will be mentioned. A prolific lyricist, Matthews blends Americana, folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass and funk into a bold, complex performance steeped in traditional melodies punctuated by honest, original lyrics.
“While each and every day, on each and every media platform, we’re reminded of the division, alienation, marginalization, and divisiveness rampant in our country (and our world), we’re not often enough met with people like Matthews,” said Justin Hiltner of Bluegrass Situation, “who exist as reminders of what beauty can occur when we bridge those divides.”
Her two 2017 releases, a full-length album called The Imagineers, a selection of thoughtful songs about love and life, and an EP called Battle Hymn for an Army of Lovers, which tackles social justice themes helped earn Matthews high praise like that from Hiltner as well as the title of 2017 NewSong Music and Performance Competition grand prize winner.
On the title track of her newest EP, Matthews says, “Must be 10,000 miles between here and forgiveness.” These Old Hands is about that journey. Her eighth studio release, this album is a sharp departure from her pre-2016 saccharine love songs and her post-2016 social justice songs. “It is the most vulnerable I’ve ever been in my music,” Matthews says. From the title track, written about picking up where a love leaves off, to the final track, written about familial complexities, Matthews is letting her listeners see behind what she calls her “titanium wall.” These Old Hands is already garnering acclaim from Folk DJs and finished out 2019 in Folk Alley’s Top Ten of 2019. Matthews already has her sights on a pre-election release of a full-length social-justice album called Changemakers. In April, Matthews released a song with fellow social-justice singer-songwriter Heather Mae called “Six Feet Apart.”