The gunslingers of the American frontier were famous for one-upping and offing one another. Rivalries were settled quickly (and often quite violently) ensuring the survival of the best and baddest in the land. We’ve seen the disputes settled on the big screen, squinty-eyed Clint Eastwood staring down Lee Van Cleef to the sound of Ennio Morricone’s twangy strings, wah-wah woodwinds, and mournful Spaghetti Western whistle.
“This town ain’t big enough for the both of us,” echoes the familiar celluloid challenges at Main Street duels at high noon.
There’s the sharp slap of leather, the smell of cordite, the telltale report of shots fired reverberating across the desert and through the canyons. And one man is left standing.
Fortunately, today’s rock and roll outlaws aren’t quite as hostile; there needn’t be just one man standing anymore. How boring would that be?
Sure, there are occasional ego clashes and the bruising of professional pride whenever some up-and-coming guitarist supplants another in the fans’ eyes, ears, and hearts—whether it’s with his (or her) rapid-fire legato, mind-blowing sweep arpeggios, or otherworldly blues bends. Hendrix, Clapton, Beck, Page, and Blackmore have their fire stolen by Ace Frehley, Malcolm Young, and Eddie Van Halen—guitar heroes who must then abdicate to Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, or John Petrucci .
No, today’s most-admired guitarists are more charitable than the pistol-packing renegades of the Old West. The shredder on the cover of this month’s Guitar World will freely acknowledge his mentor’s influence, just as tomorrow’s stars will express gratitude to contemporary musicians for having shown them the way. Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd are quick to hail Albert Collins and Buddy Guy as teachers and sources of inspiration rather than bastions of an old guard whose time has passed.
Instead of gunning each other down, today’s rockers often pass the torch willingly, and with no small amount of appreciation for having been considered part of the rock and roll relay race. A link in the ongoing evolution of the instrument—and of the music made with it.
Count Matthew Curry amongst today’s top guitar-playing Young Guns.
Though still in his teens, the Illinois-bred southpaw already boasts an impressive resume, having toured with ‘70s guitar icons Peter Frampton and Don Felder (The Eagles). His self-released albums If I Don’t Got You (2011) and Electric Religion (2013) earned rave reviews—with some critics citing Curry as the heir-apparent to Stevie Ray Vaughan. Matthew was one of five finalists in Ampeg’s “Straight Up Tone” competition, and his song “Blinded By the Darkness” won Best Blues Song of the International Songwriting Competition.
Summer 2015 will find Curry rejoining The Doobie Brothers and “Joker” Steve Miller for several concert dates. But first Matthew’s playing a string of headline shows in midsize clubs and smaller halls—where his crisp guitar attack will scorch ears and peel the paint.
He’ll play the Cambridge Room at House of Blues Cleveland on Tuesday, May 12th, with an ace ensemble featuring Fury virtuosos Tim Brickner (bass), Mike Nellas (keys), and Francis Valentino (drums).
We caught up with Curry by phone during a recent stop in Texas.
EXAMINER: Hello, Matthew! How are you?
MATTHEW CURRY: Good, man! How are you?
EXAMINER: Great, thanks! So, your itinerary puts you in the Lone Star State tonight, huh?
MATTHEW CURRY: Yep. We’re playing Midland tonight.
EXAMINER: Be sure to give my best to Tom and Pat and the rest of The Doobies. I haven’t been to Texas in twenty years, when my buddies and I drove from Ohio to Austin for spring break.
MATTHEW CURRY: Yeah. We’ll be in Austin on this run, doing the Austin City Limits. So that’ll be fun!
EXAMINER: So what can concertgoers expect from your headlining show in Cleveland in May?
MATTHEW CURRY: Well, I guess just in my opinion overall, it’s great music. A great show. A lot of fun. It’s a really great time. We’re going to have a blast, and it’ll be great coming to Cleveland. It’s been a while!
EXAMINER: What’s it been like playing with icons like Peter Frampton and Steve Miller?
MATTHEW CURRY: Oh, yeah, man. It was just a huge honor, because I grew up listening to Steve Miller and Peter Frampton! I’ve always been blown away by their guitar playing and songwriting. So it’s a huge honor to share the bill will them—and get on stage and jam with them. We’re really excited, because we’re going back out with the Doobie Brothers and Steve Miller this year.
EXAMINER: How’d you start out on guitar? What inspired you to pick it up?
MATTHEW CURRY: I was about four years old, and my dad would sit around and play his acoustic guitar around the house. It caught my attention early on. Both of my parents realized that, so they went on and got me a cheap-o Wal-Mart guitar, and I took lessons from my dad. I tried learning Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top and stuff like that. I took lessons for a few years, but then I was self-taught after that. And I love it! I probably wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t play guitar!
EXAMINER: Four years old! Wow. Most tykes are lucky if they’re potty-trained by then.
MATTHEW CURRY: Well, I was starting to play live shows with bands when I was eight-an-a-half, nine years old. I just loved playing and practicing all the time. Maybe someday after a few years I’ll figure it all out!
EXAMINER: I’ve heard it said a lot, from some of the best musicians, that you’re never done learning, and that the best students recognize that there’s always more to pick up.
MATTHEW CURRY: Oh yeah, you never quit learning!
EXAMINER: Still, you’ve accomplished a lot, and you’re all of twenty years old.
MATTHEW CURRY: I’m still nineteen. I’ll be twenty in May.
EXAMINER: You’ve got two albums under your belt already, so you’re well on your way. Electric Religion came out a couple years ago—so can we expect more material soon?
MATTHEW CURRY: Thanks, man. I just really enjoy writing the songs and collaborating with people, and working in the studio. We’ve been in and out of the studio fairly recently, so we hope to have some new material out really soon.
EXAMINER: Tell us a little about your gear. You play a Fender Stratocaster, right?
MATTHEW CURRY: Yeah, I’m a huge Fender guy. We’re on the Fender Accelerator Tour. Fender picks bands to give tour support to, and we happen to be one of those bands. So we’ve got a good relationship with Fender now. Hopefully that’ll go on for many years to come! Huge Fender guy, Fender amps, too. I like the Marshall amps, too. I use a couple Fender Strats, and a couple amps turned all the way up to eleven! They gave us a Go Pro camera, gave us a van and some gear. It was really cool of them to do that; it helps a lot! We’re really excited to be working with them. Everyone treats us really nice. It’s a great promotion for them, and for us as well.
EXAMINER: What’s the timeline on your dates with The Doobies and the solo stuff?
MATTHEW CURRY: We’re about another week here, and then we start the solo tour. And then after the solo tour we’ll jump on another Steve Miller tour for about two weeks.
EXAMINER: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony took place in Cleveland this year. Stevie Ray Vaughan was among the honorees. Was he a hero of yours? My friends and I were more into the hard rock and heavy metal guitarists as teenagers, but then we saw his Live at The El Macambo video, and it blew our minds. It opened us up more to the blues.
MATTHEW CURRY: Yeah, that’s a great performance man. Yeah, Stevie Ray…I remember my first time hearing him! I was sitting out in the garage at my house with my dad. And he put on Texas Flood. It totally opened a whole new world for me, really. I’d never heard anybody play guitar like that! He’s been one of my huge influences—and Jimi Hendrix, and all those old blues cats. You try to sponge that up. Stevie should’ve been inducted when he was still alive!
Matthew Curry. Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at House of Blues Cleveland Cambridge Room (308 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland OH 44113). Tickets only $12.00. Doors at 6:30pm.
Advance tickets here: http://tinyurl.com/k5cvyre