matthew-stubbsMEDFORD & MAIN
Matthew Stubbs
Blue Bella Records

If you follow the blues, you know Matthew Stubbs—or rather, you know Matthew Stubbs’s guitar. Right now he’s out with Charlie Musselwhite; before that he was lending his distinctive instrumental touch to the music of John Nemeth; and, for a year and a half, with Janiva Magness. With Medford & Main we get to hear how Stubbs interprets himself, using a variety of Fenders and Gibsons (we know because he lists them below the song titles on the liner book) on 11 original tunes venturing into many realms, as he has in supporting other artists. No matter the style, though, Stubbs’s engaging, personable picking makes Medford & Main a standout among many solid instrumental albums released by versatile bluesmen in the past year-plus.

You get the drift that this is no run-of-the-mill outing from the outset, when the title track kicks off with some heavy, Skynyrd-style riffing, then takes a hard left into some sweet southern soul picking, enriched with horns, before returning to the Skynyrd motif. This, then, is an album of many junctions, beyond Medford & Main, seemingly unlikely in some cases, but they all get you to where you’re going. On the mellow side, “Sleepy Eyes” lives up to its title by being a slow grooving, languorous discourse, built on a foundation of smooth, humming bursts of horns punctuated by Stubbs’s sweet, spare runs that recall nothing so much as Curtis Mayfield by way of Steve Cropper. Using a Gibson SG Standard, as he does on “Sleepy Eyes,” Stubbs adds a bit of distortion to his economical wailing in this country-flavored stomp. One of the real delights of this outing is the witty “Yikes Ike,” with its jittery rhythm, punchy horns, King Curtis-style sax blast, and Stubbs crafting some elegant, evocative runs in between a recurring eighth-note riff within a framework that nods to the masters in Muscle Shoals. It’s hard to beat the beautiful sound of the Danelectro Baritone, and Stubbs brings that point home with a caressing vengeance on the beautiful, lilting “Mangos,” a subdued, romantic missive with the subtlest of drums and a lovely, tropical flavor emanating from the shimmering, fat tones Stubbs coaxes from the Danelectro. It’s but one part of a greater whole, but “Mangos” exemplifies the rich spirit Stubbs elicits from his music, his fellow collaborators, and especially from that device with six strings that he picks with a verve and nuance singular to the deeply soulful masters whose approaches he has absorbed and then reimagined in his own unique voice.  —David McGee

Medford & Main is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024