Arts & Entertainment, Features, Reviews

REVIEW: Matthew Fowler opens at Club Passim

Club Passim, a folk club in Harvard Square, hosted Heather Maloney and opener Matthew Fowler for an intimate show with strong folk ballads and emotional moments. Fowler, an up-and-coming folk artist, released his new album on Sept. 10, which was picked up by independent record label Signature Sounds Recordings.

Matthew Fowler at Club Passim
Matthew Fowler performing with sisters Tana and Addy Prado at Club Passim Friday. MOLLY FARRAR/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Fowler, a 27-year-old singer-songwriter from Florida, played his set with sisters Tana and Addy Prado, Fowler’s high school friends. Together, they performed five songs, all of which appear on his newest album: “The Grief We Gave Our Mother.”

The trio began with the song “Everything That I Could,” which opens with Tana’s haunting clarinet solo. The audience watched quietly as the woody sound of the instrument filled the small room with low ceilings at Club Passim. Both sisters also contributed vocals to create a beautiful harmony that sits under Fowler’s solo.

Club Passim opened in 1958 and has a long history with Cambridge’s folk and acoustic music scene. The basement venue has four long tables with a seating capacity of 102 people. A full menu is available at Passim, and two servers served food and drinks at the beginning of the show, creating a chill atmosphere with music on a stage a few feet from the front row.

Fowler isn’t new to Boston, even though it’s his first time at Club Passim — “such a legendary room,” he called it. Before the pandemic, he played at Great Scott in Allston and in Chinatown. Performing in Club Passim was a stop on his tour which takes him next to Eastern Massachusetts and down to Virginia, Georgia and Florida.

He said he began touring at 19 years old. When live music was halted in 2020, he was financially and emotionally struggling, he said. Now, returning to touring has helped him regain his confidence in his career.

“Coming back to touring after that is honestly it’s been, not to be dramatic, but it’s kind of saved my life a little bit,” he said in an interview. “I’m definitely turning into the version of myself that I’m that I want to be more than the sad version of myself that I have been.”

He joked with the crowd in between songs and kept the energy light. He brought up his nerves, and in case the set wasn’t going well, he jokingly told the audience there would be only five songs.

Next, he performed “Blankets” with the Prado sisters on backup vocals. Fowler’s guitar kept the song upbeat and energetic. After, the crowd cheered, and he reminded the audience there would only be three more songs.

The Prado sisters added vocals, clarinet or oboe to every song on the set, and Fowler said the three have been friends for almost 10 years.

“We know how we work together really well, just from having a history of playing together,” Fowler said. “They really enjoy it because we all live in different states now, and the opportunity to be together and be together doing something special to us is really fantastic.”

Next, they played “I Fall Away” with Tana’s clarinet solo lifting the bridge accompanied by Addy on the oboe.

“Beginners,” which is the last song on the new album, is a tender ballad caressed by Fowler’s folksy strumming and the return of the clarinet. The Prado sisters accompany Fowler’s voice throughout, and the result is a smooth lullaby, which was Fowler’s intention.

In the recorded version on the album, Fowler’s mother, a native French speaker, sings a sample of “La Vie En Rose,” a lullaby that she would sing for him as a child. At the show, Fowler said it was symbolic for his mother to sing on the last track for “The Grief We Gave Our Mother.”

Live, Tana played the sample on the clarinet. It was a touching moment in the room as the quiet, slow piece came to an end. To close out their five-song set, Fowler performed “I’m Still Trying,” the most streamed song on the album.

The song has higher energy than “Beginners,” and the Prado sisters sing the introductory vocal harmony to introduce Fowler’s soft and smooth tenor. Without the drums at the concert, his rhythmic and adept strumming brought the beat to life.


Comments are closed.