I was able to interview Matt Jones, lead singer and songwriter of Two Cent Revival, a couple years back. He’s a nice guy – earnest about his music, amiable, a little bit dorky when you ‘re discussing other subjects. I remember thinking at the time that I could have envisioned myself playing piano or video games with him. It always comes as somewhat of a surprise, then, when you hear his voice: a deep, hard baritone that feels like it would be most at home in a Johnny Cash or Neil Diamond recording. Jones’ new project, Two Cent Revival, features a grittier sound than his earlier releases, and for the most part it’s for the better. I’ve often felt that there needed to be drive with his previous acoustic sets; Two Cent revival provides a soundscape that’s immediately more gripping than earlier efforts.
The sound in question is firmly rooted in open-road Americana and country folk rock. Two Cent Revival’s bandmembers provide a sometimes suitable, usually excellent accompaniment, and are willing to go beyond the usual standards in southwest rock. Jones is smart in his choice of instrumentation – good examples being the mandolin on “Back In The Day” and the picked acoustic and distorted harmonic on the title track. (Incidentally, I thought that one had a hokey title – was the second choice “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us?” – until I heard it. It’s fantastic, and earns its namesake.) “Give Me More Time” is a clinic in song craftsmanship any member of the Eagles might have given in their own time, and “Save Our Souls” hits the bleak, open-road feel out of the park. Jones produces his strongest songwriting in these types of moments, when chooses to channel the dark, wandering feel so often present in music from his native Texas. There’s plenty of that to go around here, and it represents a mature development in his evolution as an artist.
There are a few half-misses, too: Jones has a lyric or two that sound out of place – for instance, I don’t believe the phrase, “Sorry for being mean” is meant to be sung by such a rich, masculine voice. And there are a couple awkward phrasings: “Oh my girl you sound awfully kind / I like that / No bullshit, I think that we could work” in the otherwise excellent “Give me more time” being an example. But in the end Two Cent Revival gives us something that’s sorely lacking in the musicians coming out of Brooklyn – deep, memorable, emotional, and most of all mature songs that evoke the best and sturdiest of classic rock, rather than the most twee of the indie scene. There are more than a few places in The Devil’s In This Whiskey where I found myself thinking, “this is the indie scene when it decides to grow a pair.” I look forward to their next effort, if only because an LP promises us twice as much music.