Best Musical History Lesson (2006)

Matthew Sabatella's Ballad of America Project

For years Matthew Sabatella has been an important parochial player, first as the bass player and a singer for masterful rock band Broken Spectacles, then as a sideman for a number of groups, a solo artist, producer, Webmaster. Slight and soft-spoken, he has always been a large and loud presence in South Florida music. If any criticism might be leveled, it would be only that he spread himself a bit thin, trying to accomplish too much both as an artist and advocate. A couple of years ago Sabatella, in the tradition of documentarian Ken Burns, became enmeshed in a vast and significant project: chronicling American history through song. The acoustic Ballad of America, Volume 1: Over a Wide and Fruitful Land has been embraced by critics, museums, and fans. Featuring a number of top South Florida players and instruments such as banjo, fiddle, concertina, resonator guitar, bodhran, harmonica, mandolin, and upright bass behind Sabatella's potent baritone vocals, the record is both modern-sounding and faithful to its inspiration. It includes a twelve-page booklet of histories for each song. The second volume, the musician promises, will be released this year. Flashing forward to the past, Sabatella is bringing forth some beautiful and important music. The commitment he's shown and passion he's clearly felt are equally admirable.


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