Liner Notes with Matthew J. Rolin and Jen Powers

If you’ve been following RCU within the last year or so, you should know already that Jen Powers and Matthew J. Rolin are responsible for some of the most exciting and original guitar soli and folk-inspired free improv records being released today.

As the Powers/Rolin Duo, Powers plays hammered and bowed dulcimer (while usually hooked up to some effects peddles), while Rolin flies across the frets of his acoustic 12-string guitar. Their sound is exceptionally ethereal and will never leave you feeling anything other than completely blissed-out. For a perfect example of this, just check out their self-titled full-length LP that Feeding Tube Records released last May.

With several releases credited to the Powers/Rolin Duo, solo recordings plus various side projects under his belt, Rolin has gained the rightful reputation as being one of the most proficient and creative fingerpickers in the newest wave of American Primitive guitarists. He was even featured on one of the most recent volumes of Tompkins Square’s Imaginational Anthem series, which is a sort of long running guide to the best and brightest names in guitar soli music.

So it is our absolute pleasure to be able to feature Powers and Rolin on Liner Notes. Take a look at their answers to our questionnaire below, and be sure to take notes, as they certainly have impeccable taste!

RCU: What was the last song that you listened to?

MR: The last song that I listened to was side-B of the first volume of live recordings from Masayuki Takayanagi New Direction Unit. Crazy sounds!

JP: My friend was playing some music on their porch last night when I went by to say hello, but “Ten Years Nug II” by Willie Lane is the last song I purposely listened to. I’ve had “Keening Song” by Kitty Gallagher looping in my head all day, though.

RCU: What was the last album you felt obsessed with?

MR: Last album I’ve felt obsessed with is Patrick Shiroishi’s Descension. End of the world sounding solo free jazz sax. Sounds like it was recorded through five Marshall stacks and a fuzz face. Perfect sounds for the end of the world!

JP: Delta Momma Blues, by Townes Van Zandt. Every couple years or so, I go on a big Townes bender. This is probably my fourth time around. Lately, I can’t stop listening to “Rake” and marveling at how absolutely perfect the arrangement is.

RCU: Which artist do you most want to listen to on a Friday night?

MR: Historically on a Friday night I’d be trying to hang with friends on a porch somewhere. We could all stare off into the world while The Monks’ Black Monk Time plays loudly. 

JP: Depends on the Friday night—some weeks it’s T2, other weeks it’s Sibylle Baier, and other weeks it’s Albert Ayler.

RCU: Which artist do you most want to listen to on a Sunday morning?

MR: Sunday morning I would probably need to be making coffee to Vashti Bunyan or Jessica Pratt.

JP: Anne Briggs comes to mind. Mary O’Hara, Pentangle, McPeake Family… my Sunday mornings are for sublime European folk.

RCU: What record do you wish more people knew about?

MR: There is finally a “sort of” affordable reissue of Apache/Inca by Maitreya Kali. Craig was definitely unhinged, violent, and homeless by the time he died on the streets of Los Angeles not too long ago. I don’t support any of that, although the book about him goes into pretty good detail how he ended up that way. Those recordings transcend all of that and are some of the most beautiful folk and psych rock songs I have ever heard. Everything is anchored by his angelic voice and incredible songwriting. 

JP: Oh man, the list is endless! I’m always going on about Jan Dukes de Grey’s Sorcerers to people, though. Not even their “masterpiece,” but I just adore it so much. Derek Noy is a madman and a genius.

RCU: What’s your favorite album to drive to?

MR: Over time I’ve gradually gotten more into podcasts for driving, but historically I’d have to say it’s a tie between Modest Mouse’s The Lonesome Crowded West, or The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

JP: There are so many—I get a lot of my best listening done while driving—but Ali Farka Touré’s Niafunké has circled the top of the list since I learned to drive in the first place.

RCU: If you could pull a Groundhog Day and relive one concert that you’ve previously attended over and over again, what would it be?

MR: My Bloody Valentine at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago during October of 2013. They played a 30 min version of “You Made Me Realize” where people were actually passing out from the volume. I don’t think I’ve ever experience such intense live sound ever before or since, and I’ve seen Sunn 0))), so thats saying something!

JP: That’s a tough one. I’ve seen so many great shows, but I never think of them as repeatable experiences. Honestly, the energy at that 75 Dollar Bill show at Tubby’s in March was so beautiful, I might go for that one! They are one of my very favorite bands, and Tubby’s is such a great venue. That night was truly magical.

RCU: Which artist, living or dead, do you wish you could have a conversation with at a bar over drinks?

MR: Jim O Rourke. I know he’s a musical genius, and he is mainly responsible for getting myself into the kind of music I make. I would probably only ask him questions about music production and mixing because his ear is probably my favorite part about him.

JP: Easy! Margaret Barry. Can’t imagine having a better time at a bar with anybody else.

RCU: What’s the music doc/concert film that you’ve probably seen the most?

MR: The Last Waltz. Insane live performances from a band who went out on top!

JP: You know, I’m so bad about watching things, I couldn’t tell you for sure. I do go back to the footage of Bert Jansch recording L.A. Turnaround a lot, and the footage of Karen Dalton singing in her living room in the mid-60s.

RCU: If we blasted a follow up to the Voyager 2 gold record into space, and you could choose just one song to put on it, what would it be?

MR: This is an impossible question for me to answer because I could never narrow it down to one song. I’ll just say “Blues Run The Game” by Jackson C Frank. Perfect song and so sad. I don’t know if aliens get sad, but they can learn a lot from that song. 

JP: Wow, truly an impossible question! I’ll just say “Alla L’Aa Ke” by Alhaji Bai Konte—something with a voice on it for sure, as I think that’s humanity’s finest instrument.

Huge thanks to Jen and Matt for taking the time to tackle our questions!

Keep an eye out for the follow up to last year’s Powers/Rolin Duo LP and Matt’s next solo LP, which will be released on Trouble in Mind and Feeding Tube Records, respectively. For the meantime, check out their independent releases on Bandcamp here, and click here to get a super limited lathe cut 12″ of their QuaranTunes session that Feeding Tube hosted back in June. You can follow them on Instagram at @Catthewmeowling and @Page43.


Instead of donating to me right now, please consider donating to any of these sites to help fight racial injustice.


Published by Record Crates United

Keith Hadad, the creator and manager of RCU, has been a contributing writer to Elmore Magazine and and maintains a regular column, “Keith Hadad’s Choice,” in Blicker magazine. His writing has also appeared in the Smithsonian Folkways' Guest Blog and the Optical Sounds Fanzine. Also, please check out the blog's super-active Instagram account, @recordcratesunited for daily blurb-styled music reviews.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: