Matt Durfee has always loved solo artists who can carry a performance with just an acoustic guitar and their vocals.
He’s done that himself since focusing his attention away from Palatypus, the acoustic duo he started with M.R. Poulopoulos in 2005, and onto his own solo work in 2010. Durfee has become known in the Albany area for his intricate fingerpicking and strumming patterns, his guttural vocals and his penchant for alternate tunings (and frequent breaks to retune throughout his sets, breaks often punctuated by humorous stage banter).
But when he set out to record his debut solo album, “Little World,” he knew that he wanted to expand his sound. That album, which will be officially released at Red Square Saturday night, features guest performances from Poulopoulos, Charmboy’s Sarah Clark, and album engineer and Maggot Brain guitarist Ryan Slowey, among others.
Most of the tracks also feature members of Durfee’s own band, The Rattling Baddlies — bassist August Sagehorn and drummer Tommy Krebs. Those two also are the rhythm section for Alta Mira, which is performing at the show for the first time in over a year.
“I love playing just the acoustic guitar — to see one person do it well, to sing and play guitar, is a really powerful thing,” Durfee said while at a coffee shop in Albany a few weeks before the release show. “But I’ve never been able to sit down and listen to a record like that. I could never sit down and listen to 32 minutes at a stretch of one guy and his guitar… So that was never the kind of record that I wanted to make.”
Matt Durfee and The Rattling Baddlies CD release
WITH: Alta Mira, Henry’s Rifle
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Red Square, 388 Broadway, Albany
HOW MUCH: $7; $5 for CD
MORE INFO: 465-0444, www.redsquarealbany.com
Ready to expand
Some of the album’s guest players, including Poulopoulos and Clark, will be sitting in with Durfee and The Rattling Baddlies at the release show. At the moment, the band is officially still a trio, but Durfee is looking to add a second guitarist or multi-instrumentalist in the future.
“I always feel like we’re missing some sort of higher-end tonality in our music,” Durfee said. “Because I tune down, and because it’s an open tuning in the first place, August and I tend to tread on a lot of the same ground. We both play to the sort of mid-range field, so it would be nice to get somebody that can do some higher tonalities for us.”
Durfee, who turns 33 on Nov. 26, got his musical start growing up in Middleburgh.
“I wanted to be a drummer in elementary school,” he said. “Everybody else that was signing up for band wanted to be a drummer as well, and [the band instructor] was like, ‘There’s just way too many of you; some of you have to play different instruments.’ So I started playing trombone instead, which led to piano lessons.”
At 13, Durfee picked up bass “pretty much as an excuse to cover Nirvana and Lemonheads songs with my buddy.” He played bass in a power trio called Spun in Cobleskill, and with the band Guiltless Cult, led by Terry McClain, who has since relocated to Tennessee.
By the time Durfee turned 18, his focus had turned primarily to guitar and songwriting.
“I spent a ton of nights just walking around [Middleburgh] with my Applause Ovation strapped on, just strolling around, playing,” Durfee said. “I pretty much taught myself how to play guitar behind the bank parking lot up there — I would go up there at night and just sit out on the parking curbs that they had.”
A few years later, he began experimenting with different open tunings. Over the years, he’s developed a different tunings based around open D tuning, many by accident, that have influenced his songwriting.
“Usually the tuning will come first, and then I track a melody out of it,” Durfee said.
“I was tuning up with Mike [Poulopoulos] one night, very early on in the time that we were playing, and we were a little drunk and I tuned one of the strings up an entire step higher than it was supposed to be — the A string. So when he was playing me this chord progression, I wrote this melody, picked it out, and then when we went to play it later, we just — we couldn’t find it. And I came to find out that I was an idiot and that I tuned it incorrectly. So now every time we play ‘Again By Your Window,’ I have to tune it up to this weird tuning.”
“Little World” features three different tunings in nine songs. The album was recorded sporadically over the past two-and-a-half years, mostly in various apartments and houses with Slowey. Only the title track was recorded at Swordpaw Headquarters in Troy.
To maintain some of the loose feeling of his solo shows, Durfee recorded his guitar and vocal live on all songs except “The Space of a Breath” — the only song to feature just Durfee on guitar and vocals. The other performers layered their parts on top of that, which would often present challenges because of slightly off-kilter rhythms.
“You know, some of my favorite records are like that — they’re messy and they’re sloppy and they’re not perfect,” Durfee said. “Some of that early Van Morrison stuff is such a great example of that — the levels are out of whack here and there, and stuff is muffled, and it’s off-rhythm here and there, but they’re beautiful little songs. And it’s funny, hearing some of the stuff [on ‘Little World’] … I remember hearing some of it and being like, ‘No way this is gonna fly. There’s no way we’re gonna be able to use this.’ … The homespun aspect of it really speaks to what I’m trying to do musically.”