Matt Jones is the chief, the manager, the coordinator of The River Street Anthology, but he’s getting a little tired of seeing his name in articles, like this. That’s mostly my fault. “I’ve been waiting for someone to accuse me of using it for my own gain…” Jones said, laughing. And then I tell him how much he doesn’t have to worry about that because of how self-effacing he’s continued to be in the year’s worth of coverage; how humble he’s been. “That’s the only way to to be,” said Jones.
But I’m here to tell you that Jones, that the River Street Anthology, is hosting another Listening Party on Dec 28th at Cultivate Coffee, where you’ll have the opportunity to hear exclusive recordings and watch videos of performances archived by this years-in-the-making project preserving the legacy of Michigan music and the voices of its songwriters.
Jones is an Ypsilanti resident known to the cultural sector as the lead singer/guitarist of Matt Jones & The Reconstruction. He also performs with Loose Teeth and Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful. When he’s not in school at EMU finishing up his history degree, he’s working on River Street…
The epic Anthology was started a couple years ago out of his basement on River Street, here in Ypsilanti. Somewhat on a lark, at first, he began inviting friends and otherwise-perfect-strangers to his basement to perform a pair of songs for a modest condenser mic while he recorded it. From there, he began traveling to different cities, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Detroit, and several more, to invite musicians and songwriters, emcees and poets, from all of those communities to contribute their own works.
Long story short, the Archives of Michigan took notice and partnered with Jones to help facilitate future recording safaris to all corners of the state. I think he’s just passed his 200th contribution, but he may be even further than that, by now.
“There is a certain level of trust-building that has to happen when I step outside of (genres) I’m used to, folk, indie, rock… That’s to be expected, and it’s honestly the most exciting aspect of the whole thing.” Jones said that the Archivist of Michigan, Mark Harvey, is helping the project reach a broader population of artists, from more diverse backgrounds and a wider span of styles and genres. “The music is one thing, and the preservation… But the interactions- those first few steps into someone’s community, shaking hands, breaking the ice…, I’m taking those experiences to the grave with me.”
Videographer Charles Steen has also been helping Jones document these performances. When he references stepping outside of his proverbial genre-comfort zones, Jones is thinking back to his mid-summer session in Detroit, where he recorded performances by emcees Nolan The Ninja and Mic Phelps.
Microphone Phelps : River Street Anthology from Mostly Midwest on Vimeo.
Or another time, back in Hamtramck, when he met up with Passalacqua.
“I get so wrapped up in the recording, and the talking to people, and the writing about people, and the scheduling,” said Jones. If you want to see the care and craft he’s putting in to this, just follow his work on Facebook. “I feel like a shark, most of the time; if I stop swimming I’ll just croak. And stopping to do all the administrative things that are essential to this ever being listenable in the future is like the swim-stop instance for me. I have to figure out a way to not die when I’m not working…”
Part of his current tedium of organization involves going back through every interaction, every email, every recording, looking for dates, matching up timelines of when he recorded and who he cataloged.
“The RSA, while it is amazing to watch the effect is has on people, artists and listeners alike, is becoming very…real; the historical document I’ve been talking about making this whole time has been made. It’s a very real thing now- not just an idea…”
Jones said he’s hoping to play songs from Detroit area artists like Nolan The Ninja, Loretta Lucas, James Linck, and Kzoo-based DC Lavender. There will also be debuts of new videos filmed by Steen over the last 11 months worth of RSA sessions.
Come get to know your state’s music scene. Come get to know Jones, as he’ll be guiding you through the story of this project and the individual segments he’s featuring. Come hang out and chill with wonderful folks inside Cultivate. It’s a fine way to wind down the year.
River Street Anthology Listening Party
Wed., Dec 28
Cultivate Coffee and Tap House
307 N. River St. – Ypsilanti