Aug 242011
Authors: Michael Elizabeth Sakas

This week, in comparison to the last few months, Fort Collins has gotten loud. Students are back, the bars are full and the groans of book-buyers dropping $200 on a single subject can be heard from the Interstate 25 Mulberry exit.

Our focus narrows to superficial worries. What to wear and whom to sit by—that first-day-of-class stuff.

With the release of their new album, “To The Big River,” local “tribal folk” group Jay J Matott and the Arctic hope to remind their listeners of more important things.

“We’re too worried about the peel, we forget the fruit. We’re too worried about the seed, we forget the sprout,” are the album’s starting lyrics, laced with relaxed guitar strumming.

“We want to use our creativity and our experiences in life, in faith, in surviving (not by our own hands and feet, but by One much greater), in hopes of punching holes in the night black of sleepless, restless, uncomfortable, mixed up, broken days,” wrote Jay J Matott on his band’s website.

Suggested in the title, the band is heavily influenced by nature and returning to simple things, looking for—and finding— bigger meaning in them.

In their most instrumentally interesting track, “Ghosts,” a slew of metaphors connect them to their peaceful surroundings: “I have been snowmelt, crystal and blue. Inching down mountains, never getting near you. I have been bear paws, crunched in the leaves. Trapped in a new light, I’ll follow your lead.”

Matott’s singing comes in a question-and-answer sort of way. Short spurts, followed by slightly longer spurts. His voice is mostly quiet, except for a few moments of strained yelling where he’ll latch onto a lyric and repeat it. The majority of the album follows this pattern.

Many of the eight tracks are more than six minutes long.  The seventh track, “Wild Animals,” runs for 10 minutes.

There are biblical references, and promises that the Lord will help you through. But Jay J Matott and the Arctic are full of encouragement, not demands.

“And if I showed you the colors of the canyon walls, could you see? And if I showed you the textures of the ocean floor, could you feel?”

Maybe this weekend, instead of celebrating the start of the school year at a party, I’ll take a dip in Horsetooth.

Album reviewer Michael Elizabeth Sakas can be reached at

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