Have Gun, Will Travel: Taking aim at greatness

19

March

Have gun will travel

Meet the band: Matt Burke (vocals, guitar), Scott Anderson (lap steel) Danny Burke (bass), Joshua Hernandez (viola), J.P. Beaubien (drums).

Their story: Matt Burke started Have Gun, Will Travel as a solo side project three years ago with a multitrack recording console — a Christmas gift from his fiancee — and a Martin D15 acoustic guitar. He eventually fleshed out his material into expertly arranged and full-bodied electro-acoustic blends of country, folk and classic pop. Nowadays, HGWT brandishes songs that are catchy and accessible enough for FM radio and honest enough for diehard roots lovers.

The goods: Click here to listen to Have Gun, Will Travel's Blessing And A Curse, then watch the video before to hear them in action. Then click here to vote for them as Tampa Bay's 2009 Ultimate Local Band. And keep reading after the jump for the secret story on the concert that launched HGWT to the top of every local music fan's best-of list...


*****

Once upon a time, sometime around the turn of the century, the singer-guitarist of a young Bradenton pop-punk band called the Chase Theory took the stage of the Neptune Lounge in Tarpon Springs and gave the elder musicians on the bill the what for.

It was one of those revelatory moments, tantamount to a hush over the saloon, when all the townsfolk whisper, “Who is that kid?”

Matt Burke was that mysterious newcomer, and Have Gun, Will Travel is his latest shot heard ’round the room.

The band named after a classic TV western brings us an older, wiser Burke, who at 32, continues to convey his magnetic stage presence through easygoing eye contact, a relaxed rapport with his bandmates and self-effacing humor.

Burke started Have Gun, Will Travel as a solo side project three years ago with a multitrack recording console — a Christmas gift from his fiancee — and a Martin D15 acoustic guitar. The fan of Gram Parsons and Bob Dylan began by singing covers and acoustic ballads.

He eventually fleshed out his material into expertly arranged and full-bodied electro-acoustic blends of country, folk and classic pop. Nowadays, HGWT brandishes songs that are catchy and accessible enough for FM radio and honest enough for diehard roots lovers.

“It was a gradual transition that occurred over time,” Burke says. “It wasn’t forced. It was a very natural progression.”

Scott Anderson started playing lap steel from time to time, he recalls, and Burke’s brother Danny joined in on bass. After that came good friend J.P. Beaubien and viola player Joshua Hernandez.

Burke’s bandmates do their fair share of scene robbing. Hernandez, animated for a string man, moves merrily around the stage and nuzzles up in bromantic fashion to the other players.

HGWT’s recorded material is no less compelling. The band’s latest LP, Casting Shadows Tall as Giants, attracted an NPR spotlight in July 2008 and in January 2009 became the No. 20 most added album on the CMJ radio charts, in addition to other local and online media accolades. Much of their critical success is owed to Burke’s knack for narratives.

In his tunes, Burke tangles with honesty vs. hypocrisy, honor vs. vanity and other high-minded moral battles. Blessing and a Curse, the CD’s rousing sing-along opener, could be a movie theme. It tells a wild, illustrative tale about a doomed sheriff.

Burke also has a soft side. "Maravilla is about my daughter Helaina,” he says, “who had just been born when I was writing it. I wrote Garden Suite as a birthday gift for my fiancee. Love songs can be tricky, but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out — not too sappy or cliche.”

-- Story by Julie Garisto, photo by Lance Aram Rothstein

[Last modified: Thursday, March 19, 2009 1:00am]

    

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