Matt Arbogast has the voice of an old man, sounding tinged with the wear of whisky and cigarettes. But Arbogast isn’t an old man; his raspy voice is a surprise when you see him in person. Touring the country under the name The Gunshy, the Lancaster, Pa., native is playing a free show at the ACME tonight, along with Portland’s Modernstate and Whip.
Arbogast draws from a well of what seems to be years of experience – his music bleak and stark, his voice gritty and raspy. Drawing comparisons to Tom Waits, Eric Bachmann from Crooked Fingers and Bob Dylan, Arbogast forms his own identity with songs that combine acoustic honesty with angry rock, the music desolate and despairing, vulnerable and disappointing.
The lyrics harken back to when musicians were storytellers, a portrait of honest human emotions and anger.
In “Reason to Retreat,” from No Man’s Blues, he writes, “You said I’m sure I will be forgotten, those days played me like a fool, but it’s no disgrace to say you lost if you never know what you’re trying to win for.” The song’s focus is on his voice, slowly escalating towards more energy and anger as he sings, “But now as I lay in this modest grave with some roses at my feet I can’t help thinking if I begin again would I still find reason to retreat.”
The relationship of beautiful lyrics with a voice that’s sometimes hard to listen to is ironic, but together creates a contrast that pairs surprisingly well. Arbogast grows on you, the music too honest not to appreciate.
The Gunshy performs with Portland’s Modernstate and Whip for a free show tonight at ACME, 1305 S.E. 8th Ave., at 9 p.m.