The American West is releasing their debut album, The Soot Will Bring Us Back Again, on March 17th, 2017. The record built upon grit and heartbreak, desolation and soul. The bulk of the album was recorded live to two-inch tape in three days at The Hallowed Halls in Portland, with the help of engineer Jordan Richter (Band Of Horses, Legendary Shack Shakers, Plastic Ono Band). The Soot Will Bring Us Back Again is flecked with pedal steel and longing harmonies as the album drifts between finger-picked folk songs and raucous country-rockers, all while the focus remains on songwriter, Matthew Zeltzer’s ragged poetry.
Matthew Zeltzer, who performs as The American West, hails from Steinbeck’s California – a land of farms and working-class beach towns, where a historic drought is not just a news story, but a threat to one’s livelihood. These bleak landscapes serve as fitting backdrops for Zeltzer’s songs of love and heartbreak, staged on the brink of an environmental apocalypse.
Zeltzer wrote the bulk of the album in his late 20’s, while living in an Airstream trailer on an organic farm in Half Moon Bay. Flax farming in World War II left the foothills barren, and the farmers used livestock to reclaim the land. These songs echo the isolation of his experience, from “Ghost Town’s” gentle loneliness, to the grim narrative of “Patience, Young Conquistador.” Zeltzer carried his vision with him when he returned to Portland in 2015, bringing the timeless pastoral elements into an uncertain present with “Let Me Love You Like a Pauper Does”, a folk ballad equally indebted to Townes Van Zandt and Leonard Cohen in which a rancher looks on as his land is consumed by wildfire. Similarly, “Goddamn the Westward Man,” as catchy and vibey as a mid-70s Neil Young single, explores the mythos of westward expansion and the endless growth central to the American psyche.
These are songs about the human experience, but they are also about America – its history, its land, and anxiety about its future. Listening to The Soot Will Bring Us Back Again, you can almost feel yourself being transported – nursing a heartbreak in an Airstream trailer in a barren field atop a mountain, a modern-day Tom Joad wondering how much time we have left.
Glide Magazine is proud to premiere “Westward Man” a sublime composition that is both stark and fragile yet contains a orchestrated warmth often unheard from duos these days. Zeltzer’s warm earnest singing reminds listeners of the most enduring singer-songwriters from the 70’s, while retaining a punch of relevancy of today’s burgeoning Americana movement.
“I wrote ‘Westward Man’ on a smoke filled summer day in Portland, Oregon,” says Zeltzer. “Wildfires all over Oregon and Washington had left our city looking like a literal apocalypse- the visibility was about 100 feet at midday. Meanwhile, the Malheur Wildlife refuge occupation and Donald Trump’s primary campaign were dominating the news cycle, leading me to reflect on the history of westward expansion. People say that history has a way of repeating itself- it seems now more than ever that we haven’t really finished settling the west, and are continually repeating the same mistakes (and falling for the same bullshit rhetoric).