Greenwich, Connecticut seven-piece Red Matter operates by their own rules in familiar territory. They cut their jam-band aesthetic from the same musical cloth as luminaries such as the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Dawes, and Gov’t Mule, along with iconic acts such Phish and the Grateful Dead. Sharing a similar musical bent, however, doesn’t mean they are imitators. Red Matter distinguishes themselves with an idiosyncratic artistic voice that blends several genres together to form a cohesive whole.

Their latest collection Northbound Train reflects this. The album’s ten tracks run a gamut of styles without ever settling in one place for long and their restless creativity bears fruit on the back of innate, undeniable chemistry. This is a band that audibly enjoys creating and playing together.


The relaxed vibe permeating much of Northbound Train is clear from the start. Drummer J.P. Geoghegan’s drums have a locomotive-like opening to the first track “Light of the Moon” and the melodic figure courtesy of lead guitarist Geoff Schneider nicely compliments it. It builds, however, from an understated beginning into an impassioned kick-off for the collection. Doug Knight’s organ playing brings a key colorful component to the song. He continues making his presence felt, this time on piano, opening the third track, a barroom elegy sung with a plethora of emotion and stylish sophistication by Milo Barer. Her voice inhabits each passage of the song and gets under your skin from the outset.

The blazing guitar work lighting up the title song is one of the album’s highlights. “Northbound Train” barrels over any remaining resistance you may have to the album and its uptempo ensures it will be one of the album’s premier live numbers. The instrumental interplay crackles during “Jealous Guy”, especially the volleys between Geoff Schneider’s guitar and Ric Lubell’s bass. Despite its six minutes and nineteen seconds running time, it’s easy to imagine the band stretching this one out much longer.

“Not A Soul Around” broadens the band’s sound via brass and Doug Knight’s organ playing returns. It’s a frantic blast of good times music full of jazzy vamps and loose vocal harmonies. It makes for an interesting juxtaposition with the album’s longest track and arguably its centerpiece “Burn Out Bright”. The nearly eleven and a half minutes long opus is a dazzling instrumental and vocal workout that extends Red Matter’s all-around talents to their logical end. There’s no question that the song is an excellent live number in the making and, even with its lengthy duration, provides an ideal platform for even longer jamming in concert.

The finale “Huddled Masses” doesn’t extend itself quite as far as “Burn Out Bright” but the songs share a similar ambitious lineage. It’s debatable if the latter track might have made a more emphatic closer for the release, but no reasonable listener can claim they erred by picking “Huddled Masses” instead. Positioning these extended tracks near the album’s conclusion is a masterstroke, however, and the instrumental excellence of this song brings Red Matter’s Northbound Train to a memorable conclusion. 

Garth Thomas