Matt Minglewood & Rylee Madison
at Judique Community Centre,
Judique, NS
(23 April 2004)

On April 23, on what still felt like a winter evening in Cape Breton Island, blues rocker Matt Minglewood laid down his repertoire for an intimate crowd in the Tartan Hall of the Judique Community Centre. He was first on the bill of two for an evening of entertainment that brought artists to different parts of Nova Scotia, especially to rural areas, through the Music Industry Association of Nova Scotia.

It's not the first time Minglewood played in Judique, but it was the first for his partner on the program, Rylee Madison, a country singer-songwriter from the Halifax area. It would have been nice to have a larger crowd, but for those who attended, the show was wonderful.

No doubt performers get energized by a large crowd, but Matt's low-key format and relaxed talk while introducing his songs played just right. He opened up with "Me & the Boys" and showed why he is a past winner of the Canadian Songwriting Award by bringing to life the spirit of summer in Cape Breton when you're a young man. Next was a "Railroad Song" and thirdly a song called "The Blues Ain't Pretty" that painted dramatic pictures and sent chills up my neck.

The next tune brought out a story about playing with Charlie Musslewhite up north, and he said the best thing he could do for us tonight was "play it like Charlie." That was the treat of the night.

Matt bounced onto the keyboard next and then took out the acoustic and told us a story about time spent with his Aunt Phemie, his mother's sister, which revealed his family connections to Judique. The Judique MacDonald clan that spawned the likes of Natalie and Buddy and Dan R., all Cape Breton icons, counts Matt on the family tree as well. (Whisper: he's actually one of the Port Hood Bathersons.)

Matt's grainy, rich and hearty voice amazes us when he puts it to songs like "Brushed By the Wings of an Angel," and he made us all happy that night by closing with "Can't You See." Matt's solid performance was just what we expected and I'm carrying the night in mental files of musical memories that I take out and recycle.

The first time I heard Minglewood play live was also in Judique at a family reunion. While the rest of the family danced the night away, Matt and his guys took to the stage with a vengeance and showed why he's the people's touring king.

Back to 2004, now with the pace and the view on stage changed in the second half with the entrance of Rylee Madison. A petite and perky redhead with a passion for more traditional country songs, Rylee was a pleasant talker, and I'm sure she felt the need to educate us about her songs and the country music radio scene. Of which I was glad, because I know next to nothing about that.

She's a recent nominee for the East Coast Music Awards Female Artist of the Year and Country Artist of the Year. Rylee had some company on stage with her, her own guitar, guitarist James Logan and back-up singer/guitarist Tammy Giffin. She began with "It All Goes Back to You" and she is definitely big-time county.

"Before I Die" she co-wrote with John Curtis Sampson, and with Diane Chase she wrote "Crazy in Love." Rylee definitely had a show plan and tried to follow it but the small crowd was a little too close for anything but direct conversation.

The Minglewood fans, however were ready to hear her out and I'd say by the end of the night she had more new fans on her list. I found it really strange to have a singer-songwriter with such a purely country bent among us but found her performance striking in a lot of ways and, though I won't turn the country radio stations on, I'll be watching for her name in collaboration with other performers.

She sang "Little Simple Life," which she wrote with Lenny Gallant from PEI. "Life is Good" is on the new Nova Scotia Tourist product, the Doers & Dreamers CD. "Say a Little Prayer" and other mentions of her album The Life of Rylee certainly let us know she was the real stuff. I think she really won our hearts with her story about the last song, "Last Stop Before Heaven."

Her songs are probably found everywhere country music is found so keep an eye out for this young woman and a growing career in country music.

This was an evening of wonderful music and I hope the entertainers realize that we appreciated every note.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 28 August 2004

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