The Dirt Drifters’ Matt Fleener says a little starving goes a long way 

Alt-country fans — remember that chilling little tingle that traveled up your spine the first time you heard Steve Earle’s genre-defining debut “Guitar Town”?

Or even the ribald honky-tonk scrappiness of that first Georgia Satellites opus?

Get ready to feel that spark again, via “This Is My Blood,” the brand-new Warner Brothers bow from Nashville’s defiantly old-school quintet The Dirt Drifters.

Scroll down for a quick Q&A with The Dirt Drifters’ Matt Fleener.

From the opening barroom brawlers “Something Better” and “Always A Reason,” through one of the most perfect C&W anthems around, “Married Men And Motel Rooms,” to the workingman’s complaint “I’ll Shut Up Now” (featuring none other than Willie Nelson) and painfully honest ballads like “Name On My Shirt” and the title track, every note of this beefy, blue-collar set rings like a bell of honest truth in an era of cheeseball Hallmark-card sentiment that passes for “country.”

There’s not a note, anthemic hook or heartfelt vocal (courtesy of bluesy belter Matt Fleener; twin Duane Eddy guitars courtesy of his brother Ryan Fleener and Springsteen-bred New Jersey-ite Jeff Middleton) out of place.

Seriously — “Blood” is that damned good.

It’s the kind of record that transcends Nashville, which is probably why the band has already caught on in Texas and the West Coast, where they’ll be appearing tonight in Folsom, at the Powerhouse Pub, and tomorrow night in Petaluma at Kodiak Jacks.

Make no mistake, The Dirt Drifters will be monstrous. But just don’t mistake them for any Music Row Johnny-come-latelys, as Matt Fleener, almost 33, is quick to clarify.

You and Ryan hail from Oklahoma. What gave you the guts to move to Nashville?

I was 21, and both of us were pretty much wondering what we wanted to do with our life. And there was this big part of our upbringing that had to do with music.

My dad started singing with his two brothers when he was 21, and after Ryan and I came along he kept going regionally, playing Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and playing a lot of Opry-style houses. So there was always a band playing in the garage, growing up, and I just thought it was normal. And I could never find myself sitting in a school for long, so we both eventually dropped out of college. And then we met this songwriter friend of our dad’s who told him “I hear your boys are writing music! If they ever move out to Nashville, you tell ’em to call me when they get there — I’d love to help ‘em out!”

So I sold my truck, we packed up everything with no job and we just moved, because we thought we had an “in.” But we got there and the guy didn’t answer his phone. Not once. So we spent the next two years just sitting around with our guitars, meeting people like us, and just really learning how to write a song.

But times were tough for awhile, right?

Well, once me and Ryan made the transition from Oklahoma, we were really poor. I walked to my construction jobs, and we couldn’t even get enough money together to buy a six-pack of beer sometimes. There were a few apartment complexes we moved out of in the middle of the night because we couldn’t make the last payment. And that’s embarrassing to say, but that’s my life that’s led up to this record. And obviously it’s not like that now — everything I’ve got goes to my wife and kids. But I never once picked up the phone to call anybody back home and say I needed money. And people around the country are going through that same stuff now. But I think starving for your art is good for your soul. I think it’s necessary. And to me, that’s what country music is all about, and I think we all need to remind ourselves of that.

About The Author

Tom Lanham

Pin It

More by Tom Lanham

Latest in Pop Music & Jazz

© 2018 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation