Matt Bilodeau of Matt & The Barnburners. Contributed photo

Now I ask you, what better way to heat up a cold January night than a smoking hot shot of the blues served up by a great local band? Well, that’s what’s on the menu at Madison’s Somerset Abbey on the 15th of this month as this venerable venue kicks off its 2022 season of performances with the return of Matt & The Barnburners, and to that end, I got in a call to Matt himself this time around (last time was in 2019 when I chatted with Greg Hazard, a member of the band).

Q: Now, Matt, where am I calling?
Bilodeau: I actually live in Fayette — I’m from Livermore Falls.

Q: How long have you had The Barnburners?
Bilodeau: We did our first job, I was looking it up the other day, in March of 2006.

Q: That’s a good run.
Bilodeau: Yeah, and there’s been about five complete bands in that stretch. But this band here — Bub {Lynch}, the drummer and “Daddy-O,” the guitar player; they have been with me a while, especially Greg {Hazard}, the guitar player.

Q: Now, Matt, what’s your role in the band?
Bilodeau: I’m one of the lead singers, the Barnburners has two lead singers: myself, I play harmonica, and “Daddy-O” does the bulk of the singing and he’s the lead guitar player.

Q: And he’s Greg Hazard, right?
Bilodeau: Yeah, that’s his name.

Q: Now you guys have played up at the Somerset Abbey before, haven’t you?
Bilodeau: I believe this could be five or six times, I know we were downstairs twice and we were upstairs once pre-COVID and then we went back after COVID, so this is going to be number five.

Q: You have released one CD called “Feel The Heat” in 2017, correct?
Bilodeau: Yeah, we have that one and we were working on another CD, and had two tracks of it cut that’s still in the studio, when COVID hit and we haven’t been back.

Q: Now, those new tracks, any chance the folks coming to the Somerset Abbey will hear them?
Bilodeau: Yes, we’ll be doing them, matter of fact, we’ll probably going to do them over because that new CD was going to be all brand new stuff so they’re literally brand new and we’d only played them a couple of times. Well, now we’ve been playing them for almost two years now, so it’s been a while. And we’re going to do them tonight, we’ll do our original stuff, we always do, there’s a couple of songs that, every place we play, they want to hear.

Q: Do you ever do covers?
Bilodeau: No, just our original stuff. I’ve got three new ones and Greg. Greg is the songwriter in the band, he’s got a bunch of stuff. Greg is the songwriter, I’m the story teller. If you know your blues and you listen to our CD, you’ll hear that Greg’s songs that he wrote are what I would call songs and my songs are stories.

Q: How would you describe the style of blues that you do?
Bilodeau: The Barnburners are old school, the electric, in-the-beginning Chicago stuff that I call ‘hard-driving,’ there’s not a lot of fancy stuff to it, it’s just old blues. If you listen to the new blues now there’s a lot of busy work in the songs, if you know what I mean. And that’s never been me in life. Now Greg has a tremendous singing voice. I can sing, but I have a unique voice: I have a deep Maine accent. You throw that out there in the blues world with dynamics and it’s different, it’s unique, and it goes over good because that’s what blues is all about. And the Barnburners have, what I consider, about as good a dynamics as any of the blues bands that I’ve seen, and I’ve seen pretty much all of them in this state.

Q: Is there anything, Matt, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Bilodeau: Yes, I would like you to pass on that if you are into the blues to try and find out where there are live events and it’s always a laid-back, nice thing. Also I just got my promoter’s license and I’m having my own festival, last year was the first one and this year it’ll be at the same place: Spruce Mountain in Jay, Maine, and it’ll be in August, probably the first weekend.

Q: Oh, that’s neat! We’ll have to chat again at that time, right?
Bilodeau: I’d like that, there will be local groups and a national act, too.

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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