“You don’t have to hit the spotlight baby, we know who you are,” Lexington native Matt Duncan croons on his stellar album, Beacon. Not to say that we didn’t recognize how special those intimate Matt Duncan & Friends shows at Cosmic Charlie’s and Al’s Bar were at the time. Yet little did we know how rare it would be to hear those lyrics live after Matt went on to bigger and better things. Indeed, to see a Matt Duncan show now would mean traveling 11 hours northeast to his current home in New York, NY. We may have taken those shows slightly for granted, but we always knew his art was destined for bigger stages.
How do I describe Matt Duncan’s music? Coooool. It’s the music your older brother listened to in the basement and you first smelled that funny smell. It’s bourbon, one rock. Classy. Sophisticated.
To say that this guy is a perfectionist is an understatement. When recording Beacon, Matt recorded all the instruments and vocals himself, showcasing his talents as a true musician.
Beacon, his first of three albums, came out in 2010. I remember Jared Lee lived in an apartment off Old Todd’s Road in Lexington and I had come to town for the weekend. Jared played this album for me and I fell in love. As a fan of Steely Dan, and all things jazz and blues; I couldn’t help but be drawn to the soulfully sang lyrics and full composition. To be completely honest, it’s an album that I now slightly judge people on. If you can’t appreciate it, I’m not sure how much I can trust you.
A very “coming of age” album; it starts with a choir of “Voices” before the beginning of “1000 Boys”. The harmonies on lyrics like “I’ve been feeling low, but I’m not down and out just yet (Down and out just yet)”, subtly motivates listeners as he belts out “Give me time, I will do Better”.
Jared recounts: Tracks like “Heart & Arrow” harken back to a simpler time where he would recall “Counting our blessings on the north dorm lawn,” a feeling I remember myself as an undergraduate.
As the third track “Meanstreak” picks up with the shake of an always present tambourine. Keys, sax, and guitar are all in full force as Matt admits to his Boo that he’s sorry for all the things he has said and done to her in a cheap booze-filled rage.
Foreshadowing his own future in the title track “Beacon”, he talks about his friends in New York City having left town.
In “Puritan Heart” Matt sings,”I got a six pack at the Speedway we could finish it at MY place”. The lyric always resonated at the old Cosmic Charlie’s location on Woodland, which had a Speedway filling station directly behind it.
Matt still plays shows in New York City and Brooklyn and also plays bass in the Angry Inch Band for the Broadway musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”. The story of an (imperfectly transformed) transgendered woman who rocks and rages through a concert version of her extraordinary life.
You can occasionally still find a copy of this album on vinyl at CD Central. I highly recommend picking one up before they’re all gone. Here’s this until you get a tangible version. Best enjoyed with Bourbon and friends.