Matt Arthur is a fiercely contrarian Southern Minnesota blind man with a voice that calls to mind Johnny Cash, Nick Cave, and John Darnielle. He writes and records songs you’d be pleased to hear on a playlist packed with early-70s Stones, Crazy Horse-era Neil Young, and more recent offerings from Sturgill Simpson and the Drive By Truckers. He is a true American original, and unlike any musician you’re likely to encounter.
This is his story, so far:
MATT ARTHUR HAS SPENT MOST OF HIS LIFE LIVING JUST OUTSIDE HOPE, in rural Southern Minnesota. He learned to sing by listening to gospel records from Tennessee Ernie Ford and Johnny Cash, and decided that’s what he wanted to do when he grew up. He gave it a good shot in the 1990s, when his first band (Prest Asbestus) played everywhere in the Twin Cities, sharing stages with such local luminaries as Babes in Toyland, Run Westy Run, and Soul Asylum—as well as national acts that included Vic Chesnutt, Tad, and the Afghan Whigs. When the band ultimately fizzled, however, Matt headed back south and settled in tiny Ellendale (pop. 691).
But settling wasn’t really Matt’s style. So, after shaking things up a bit as a member of the local town council, he wrote and recorded a solo album of folk-gospel songs. While the recording proved to be not-churchy-enough for the religiously inclined, and utterly bewildering to the indie rock crowd, it unleashed a taste for songwriting that has produced over 50 original tunes to date.