Fresh Tracks – January 2016 – Matt Rae
By Sarah Bourque
Published January 15, 2016
To anyone in the guitar world, you may have heard the name Matt Rae. If you haven’t heard of him, read on. Rae is a musician based out of Connecticut and has performed with such names as Johnny Winter, Forrest Lee Jr., and Levon Helm. He began playing the guitar at the ripe young age of six and hasn’t stopped. Growing up with a mother who taught guitar, he first learned basic chords on her Martin 00-15 acoustic and it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with the instrument. His earliest tunes were television theme songs he learned by ear, which ranged from Starsky and Hutch to Charlie’s Angels. In 1997, he began taking lessons from Arlen Roth, only to later become a member of his band until 2013.
Rae’s biggest influences include The Grateful Dead, along with classic rock in general. Being a fan of the Dead, Jerry Garcia’s influence reached far and wide to the young Rae. All he had to hear was Garcia mention Telecaster greats, such as Roy Buchanan, Buck Owens, and Don Rich, and he was hooked. He learned all he could about those artists, which naturally led to his love of the Fender Telecaster. All of his hard work has paid off over the years. In 2005, Guitar Player magazine named him a Guitar Hero of the year. He also had the distinct honor of performing at a Midnight Ramble with the late, great Levon Helm.
He recently released his sixth album titled “Twangin’ the Dead” and, for any Dead fans out there, this is an album not to be missed. The inspiration for this album came from his work with Levon Helm. In 2009, Rae recorded with him, which was also the year that Helm covered “Tennessee Jed.” He was impressed with how Helm made the song his own, as opposed to just doing a straight up copycat version. That was the inspiration that gave Rae the push to create his latest instrumental album. He puts a fresh spin on such classics as “Scarlet Begonias,” “Truckin,” and “Sugaree,” to name a few. His clean sound adds a crisp, country kissed flair to these well known melodies which beg for listeners to get up and dance.
Rae recently sent his new album to David Gans, hoping that he would, at the least, just have a listen. Rae became a fan of Gans in the 80’s, when he started listening to his show, “The Grateful Dead Hour.” It comes as no surprise that Gans provided air play for the new album on both his show, “The Grateful Dead Hour,” as well as on Sirius XM’s, “Tale’s From The Golden Road.” It’s quite an honor to be recognized by such a well respected individual who has done extensive work with The Grateful Dead over so many years.
For now, Rae is not currently touring, however, can frequently be found playing gigs in New York and, every once in a while, at Daryl’s House in Pawling, NY. To continue in his mother’s footsteps, he provides private guitar lessons in person and via Skype. If you’re a fan of the Grateful Dead, you will quickly become a fan of Matt Rae and his infectious guitar sound.
For more information on Matt Rae, please visit his website.
COVER PHOTO CREDIT: Josh Cashman