On January 22, 1977 Johnny Cash brought his band to Upstate New York to the Onondaga County War Memorial to promote his 56th album The Rambler. A concept album about traveling, the songs interspersed with dialogue between Cash and hitchhikers he picked up or other people he met during the album’s cross-country trip. It truly is an American roots album where Cash shares various county road tales about the lost love of women and family anecdotes about his grandfather’s preaching days in North Carolina.
Outlaw country outfit Mr.Days from Albany have adopted a similar alt-country/jam/Americana sound concept for their first album, Infinitus. Released on January 1, 2021 is influenced by the same America as Cash was. Mr. Days is a trio consisting of James Matlock on guitar and vocals, his father Rick Matlock on guitar and vocals and Jacob Karker on drums and vocals. The father-son duo have been writing these songs and performing them in Capital Region saloons for a couple years now.
The Matlocks wrote a song called “Bill and Ed,” a story about their great-great-great grandfather who made a living in part by traveling the country selling Christmas trees by train in the winter. There was a family legend that he had died when looking out the window of a moving train during one of these endeavors, being decapitated by a light pole. Genealogical research indicated that it was actually just a train crash that resulted in his passing, but it still holds roots for a great ballad, with drums echoing the train rolling down the tracks. The Matlocks sing, “Riding out toward Toledo, got four cars of spruce, that Christmas pine, the train keeps rolling and a winter storm is blowing.”
Rick Matlock’s travels in America are also reflected in the tune “Carolina Bound,” a musical memoir of his trips down south to visit family, singing, “Pack my bag and leave the valley, say goodbye to Mohawk cold … I’m moving on to the southern plains where I belong.” Another great track that reflects America’s history is “Appalachian Bloodstone.” This song travels to the hillsides of West Virginia where the Buffalo Creek Flood occurred in February 1972. The Pittston Coal Company impoundment dam in Logan County had burst four days after having been declared “ satisfactory” by a federal mine inspector. The accident that was referred to as “an act of god” and displaced the 5,000 people who lived along Buffalo Creek Hollow. The Matlocks praise, “we all sink the same … that’s the price they pay for taking all that blood stone”
Mr. Days started their own history in 2021 with the release of their debut record. Hopefully it will bring them across the vast American landscape that they sing heartily about. Much like Johnny Cash on The Rambler, the journey of Mr. Days takes place on the open road. Cash preaches “Life out on the interstate is very much alive, there’s magic in the mountains and music in the valley down below, and my song ain’t through playing yet so I believe I’ll hit the road and go”.
Key Tracks: Bill and Ed, Carolina Bound, Appalachian Bloodstone