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Time makes a difference for Striking Matches

Cafe 939, Boston, September 30, 2015

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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What a difference four months makes. When the duo Striking Matches debuted in Boston in late May, Sarah Zimmerman and Justin Davis capably showed off their skills, but somehow it felt like a lot of songs fell just a bit short.

Davis and Zimmerman tended to cut a lot of songs abruptly, never letting them breath enough or fleshing them out.

That was not the case on their return to Beantown. Time and again, Striking Matches did exactly what they failed to do at Brighton Music Hall. A few songs ran five or six minutes, sometimes electric, sometimes acoustic, but reaching their natural conclusion. Ditto for the shorter songs as well.

With one release under the belt, Striking Matches played a good chunk of their debut, but changed up the set list a bit. They played one new song ("Wake Up Alone") and reached back for an old song ("Saving All My Tears") as well. "Wake Up Alone" rocked a lot, although there were quieter spaces within the lengthy song as well.

Striking Matches has been grouped in with the country crowd. Having a chunk of songs in the "Nashville" TV show will tend to do that for you, of course, but for the most part, they tend to rock a lot more playing country. They also had a sharp blues streak, turning in a meaty take on Robert Johnson's "Crossroads."

Zimmerman came off as a shredder at heart, occasionally playing some mean slide. She also showed her skills on electric mandolin. Davis was no slouch on guitar , though his compadre anchored the sound.

Both took care of lead vocals, sometimes trading lines within a song. Their sound was fleshed out with the addition of a rhythm section while in May it was just the two of them.

Striking Matches remains a good moniker for this band. They are growing with experience and getting hotter.

Fairground Saints proved to be an excellent opening match. The LA-based trio recalls The Civil Wars with Megan McAllister and Mason Van Valin taking on their roles (there is a third member of the band as well, Elijah Edwards on guitar, who added backing vocals).

Van Valin and McAllister made some pretty sounding music with the clear sound system letting their vocal interplay come through.

Fairground Saints displayed a well-earned confidence in their delivery. They ought to because with a bunch of quality songs and an engaging delivery, Fairground Saints was one of those opening acts that you were glad you caught.