Tuesday, January 18, 2022

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Sound Stage

Thankful Dirt


Molly Matthews, vocalist for Thankful Dirt, which played at El Bait Shop on Jan. 22.

Molly Matthews, vocalist for Thankful Dirt, which played at El Bait Shop on Jan. 22.

In the 2003 film “Lost In Translation” Bill Murray’s character is in Japan to shoot a commercial wherein his only line is: “For relaxing times, make it Santori Time.” Well, Des Moines, for relaxing times, make it Thankful Dirt time.              

The band is anchored by the duo of Darren and Molly Matthews; he on guitar while she supplies vocals. The full band includes keys, drums, viola and more, but on Tuesday night at El Bait Shop the pair was accompanied only by Eric Brown on trumpet. The result was a sound that was stripped bare and offered up in its most sublime form.               

Molly’s vocals are earthy and languorous, shades of Loretta Lynn and Natalie Merchant. She’s less a singer than a storyteller, allowing her voice to lay a tapestry of emotions and ideas out in front of you like a map. Darren’s guitar work adds in the necessary details, pointing out the peaks and valleys across each song’s topography and turning them into something vibrant and dynamic.                

Rounding out the sound in perfectly understated fashion was Brown’s trumpet work. Never overpowering, the subtle notes serve to add color and warmth to the tableau of each song. Playing in El Bait Shop’s close quarters and being careful not to overpower, Brown’s solos came out not as blaring, bawdy things, but more like gently whispered suggestions.                


Acts like Thankful Dirt serve to underscore the fact that there’s something beautiful to be found in local music, regardless of where your tastes lie. A night out with a local band needn’t be a loud, amped-up, sweaty affair, if that’s not your bag. There are plenty of acts like this one performing all over town, inviting you in with songs as comfortable as a summer afternoon. CV

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