The stage (or lack thereof) is getting set for an early evening St. Patrick’s Day performance featuring Alton area music staple Matt Taul.
The corner of the covered outdoor patio of Roper’s Regal Beagle, which just moments prior was looming emptily amid an otherwise bustling sunny afternoon, is now the energy center of the establishment. Familiar faces from the Alton area music scene start to file in with amps, guitars and drums as the friendly jabs and old inside jokes start to fly. There’s a clear sense of camaraderie amongst Taul’s backing group for the evening, aptly billed “and friends,” and it’s no wonder why.
“It’s always better with friends,” Taul remarks as he delves into what determines whether or not he enlists a band to help deliver the tunes at any given show.
“Music is something special to share with people,” he says, explaining there is a friendly bond that forms when you play music together long enough.
On this particular occasion, in addition to Taul leading the band with his acoustic guitar and a penetrating Americana, Southern rock and traditional country-tinged vocal, Jeff Walker and Johnny Masinelli fill out the rhythm section on drums and bass guitar, respectively; add Jay Hollinger and Phil Waits into the mix, each on electric guitars, trading bluesy Southern rock lead lines almost immediately upon the band starting, and you’ve got Matt Taul and Friends ... for tonight. Walker, Masellini and Hollinger have all done time with Taul’s most recent “official” act, The Five & Dimers. Waits’ familiarity for most should be attributed to his role as lead guitarist in the currently dormant jam, folk and psyche outfit The Blu Skies, as well as the original lead guitarist in local favorites Crazy Chester.
The Five & Dimers have been largely inactive for the past couple of years, but Taul emits a bit of a glow about the whole thing. With a long list of musicians who know all of his material, he enjoys the excitement of not knowing exactly how each tune will sound from gig to gig.
“It’s hard keeping a band together,” he says with an accepting smile.
While the singer and songwriter seems like the perfect collaborator for the pros in Nashville, Tenn., only in the past several months has Taul explored the avenue (“I didn’t think I had any value in that city,” he says). A recent performance at Antique Archaeology (the Nashville retail location for the popular reality show “American Pickers”) seems to have helped turn that tide. He brought along Waits and Matt McGibany on fiddle as well as Joe Cox, a bandmate from Taul’s days with Stubblefield, for a more stripped-down set that day, and says more opportunities are starting to come together in Music City.
Other happenings include a trip to Kansas City, where both a prime time slot on a showcase and a preliminary meeting with a record label are on the itinerary. Add in some behind-the-scenes efforts to enlist a European distribution company to help circulate his music overseas and it’s clear Matt Taul is one of the hardest-working musicians in the Riverbend.
A few years of sobriety have done Taul a world of good. While he admits that a sad story always makes for a good song, there’s just not as much “doom and gloom” in his life these days, and his writing hasn’t suffered. His voice is better, and the opportunities have been better, which he credits to simply seeing things with a more focused perspective.
As for a new album, Taul plans to get back in the studio this winter. Until then, he’ll stay busy assembling variations of “and friends” for live performances featuring both old and new original music in addition to takes on a wide range of covers. Be sure to stay informed by visiting Matt on the web at matttaulmusic.com and Matt Taul Music on Facebook.