Zach Seibert and Todd Mathis’ Musical Epiphany

Epiphany -- Todd Mathis and Zach Seibert

Zach Seibert’s voice gives me chills, serious goosebump, hair-raising, ones, but this new gospel album he and Todd Mathis (of American Gun) have recorded gives those chills a spiritual direction that’s in keeping with the subject matter at hand.

Epiphany encompasses four traditional tunes, three original songs each from Seibert and Mathis, and a familiar church hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross,” by George Bernard. Of the traditional selections, Seibert’s “Do Lord” takes the most liberties with the melody and the lyrics, transforming it from a summer camp staple to a gorgeous, lovingly rendered plea for divine intervention.

Mathis’ “Are You Ready” sounds like it could be a traditional Appalachian gospel song, its lines lifted from many a camp meeting or back country church service; play it next to the similarly executed “Go Tell it on the Mountain” and you’ll see what I mean.

They haven’t played together before this, but the voices of Mathis and Seibert fit together well, with the former’s twang bouncing off the latter’s raspy tones. It’s the antithesis of the classic duos like the Osborne Brothers or the Louvins, but it works in a way that makes the songs more believable, more authentic, and the bare-bones instrumentation (just two acoustic guitars with the occasional harmonica, banjo, and minimal overdubs) keeps that setting in place.

There have been hints of this kind of material from both Mathis and Seibert in the past. American Gun recorded “Wayfaring Stranger” on their first demo disc, and also offered up “Jesus Gave Us Rock ‘n’ Roll”, while Seibert’s sometimes faith-searching songs are all over his own albums, but throwing themselves fully into the process of exploring the religious side of the music they both play has resulted in a spirited take on spirituals for the rest of us to enjoy.

Check out the full album on iTunes here

My Favorite Local Albums of 2009

I write about music from all over the place for publications and websites that are also all over the place, but I’ve had a particular fondness for the music of my own backyard here in South Carolina, and especially in Columbia. Here, then, are my favorite local releases of 2009:

My Favorite Local Albums 2009

Kenley Young, Standard Candle
Smooth, slick, and sparkling guitar pop.

Magnetic Flowers, What We Talk About When We Talk About What We Talk AboutA glorious mess of an album, like a train barely able to remain on the tracks.

Haley Dreis, Beautiful To Me
About as perfect a pop recording as any to have come out of Columbia.

American Gun, The Devil’s Right Hand
Mark this as the one where Todd Mathis’ twangier material shines the brightest and truly begins to define this band.

Zach Seibert and the Red Wagon, Learning To Drown
The year’s most pleasant surprise, a sweetly rendered, rough-hewn gem.

Justin Smith and the Folk-Hop Band, World Unknown
Less hop and more rock made this a local radio hit, with good reason.

Treadmill Trackstar, I Belong To Me
File under “Welcome return” and turn up the volume.

The Unawares, Pinkie Greene
Raw, unassuming, yet immediate and melodic.

Hannah Miller, Somewhere In Between
Columbia’s most mesmerizing vocal chords.

Danielle Howle, The Swamp Sessions
Stripped down to just her voice and guitar, Howle still delivers.

Various Artists, Christmas At Red Bank, Vol. 1
Perfect local-centric addition to the holiday music mix, with some great takes on classic carols.

Zach and his Red Wagon


It’s an american icon, the Radio Flyer red wagon; that Zach Seibert chose it for the name of his band says a lot about the timeless appeal of the music they make–sturdy, simple tunes with an easygoing gait that could resonate with a wide range of listeners given the chance to be heard.

Seibert may draw comparisons to Ryan Adams’ early work, but his twang sounds more natural and innate. “Dream of Two,” from the band’s debut CD Learning To Drown, is typical of the direct, yet poetic lyricism he’s capable of. The narrator sounds resigned to his fate of “me being me and you being you”:

maybe we could work it out
but I’ll stick around and let you kick
this dumb old mule right in the mouth”

The mini-drama unfolds over a musical bed of gentle banjo and hammond organ riffs as he recounts the burial and exhumation of his pride and his conscience, wondering, “Do you dream of two?” while probably knowing the answer already.

Seibert used to play with the band Due East, and this new outfit is an extension of their souful alt-country sound that puts even more emphasis on his songs, and rightfully so.

Seibert and his Red Wagon will play a free show Saturday, March 21st, at the Whig in downtown Columbia, SC. Check out songs from the new album on their Myspace profile here.