Matthew Byrne – Concert Review – April 26, 2015

Photo by Graham Kennedy

It all started in a cross-handed way. One man perched on a stool. His rich, resonating voice filled the room - no amplification, no instruments. It was the beginning of a night that ended too quickly.

Matthew Byrne, possessing a sturdy, lumberjack quality, wouldn’t look out of place swinging an ax in the woods or hauling in the day’s catch on a fishing boat. However, tonight his place was a cozy, upstairs room entertaining a captivated audience.

The opening song ended with the last lines spoken, not sung. Matthew then reached for his guitar and launched into two sets of beautiful, folk songs that centered around his native Newfoundland.

There was a story behind each song – likely hundreds of stories - stories of hard work, of tragedy on the seas, of running rivers, of lost loves, and the prettiest murder ballad I’ve ever heard.

The clarity of his voice made it easy to follow the tales as he recalled lives and lifestyles lost to history. Ways of life foreign to most people today were reborn from a single voice and a lone guitar. His guitar, played with a light touch, smooth and clean, blended perfectly with his voice.

Matthew wove funny stories and interesting anecdotes between the songs. Relaxed on his stool he’d explain some of the unusual terms in the songs or the history of the times in which they were written, exposing the whys, the hows, the wheres of the tales. At times he’d get more personal relating the songs’ ties to his mother, father, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

One of my favorite songs of the night was True Love Knows No Season (aka Billy Grey).

You can watch it on YouTube here:

If you don’t see the video above you can find it here.

Other highlights were Three Score and Ten, a sorrowful lament recounting the tragic loss of boys and men at sea, and Heroes, a bright, uplifting original instrumental.

Matthew Byrne has two solo albums available, Hearts and Heroes and Ballads, and one with The Dardanelles, The Eastern Light. You can listen to several songs from each album here.

Fair warning, the albums can’t do his voice justice. His music possesses a richness and his voice a resonance that can’t be fully captured by a recording, it can only be experienced with Matthew singing a few feet away, guitar in hand, eyes closed, being swept into his own songs.

Although the albums can’t compare to his live performance, they do have some features not available in a solo concert. Many of the songs on the albums have other instruments in accompaniment- bass, fiddles, accordions, flutes, violin, cellos - adding elegant textures to the songs. A couple of the songs are duets. The voices of Pauline Scanlon on Barque on the Harbor and Meg Warren on Fare Ellen, the lovely murder ballad, blend delicately with Matthew’s voice.

The concert was hosted by Dave Stewart and Lois Shea at McClary Hill Farm in Epsom, New Hampshire, only a few hundred feet up the street from where I live. It was the perfect setting in which to experience Matthew’s music with nothing to get between you and the music.

My wife and I had a front-row view in a room filled with more than 50 people.

The concert was opened by Fiona Shea, Lois’ daughter, and Dan Faiella , members of Sparrow’s Joy.  With Fiona singing and playing fiddle and Dan on the guitar, the young duo played a lively mix of Northern Roots folk that got everyone’s feet tapping and nicely warmed up the crowd for the main event.

The night ended with several sing-alongs, with the audience lending their voices to the choruses of Come Fare Away, as well as a traditional sea shanty.

Otherwise, the night was filled with one soothing voice with a subtle, understated power much like the men and women in his songs.

If I had to sum up the concert in one word it would be genuine. Matthew has a genuine talent and a genuine love for what he does. Throughout many of the songs his eyes were closed. Even though he must have played the songs hundreds or even thousands of times, they still appeared to capture him as they captured the audience.

If you’re wondering what “cross-handed” means, it’s another phrase for a cappella. But you’ll learn there’s far more to the term if you ever get a chance to see Matthew Byrne live. And why did cross-handed songs historically end with a speaking line? You’ll have to see him yourself to find out.

I’d never heard of Matthew Byrne before the concert was scheduled. Now he’s found a spot in my regular playlist. If I get a chance I’ll definitely see him in concert again.

If you want to see Matthew live, he’s got a few more dates left in his tour or you can signup for his email updates to find out when new dates get added.

Related Links:


Another Strike-The-Root Column – Secret Terror Script Leaked

Today I posted more articles on Strike-The-Root as the Friday editor.

I also got my second Strike-The-Root column published Secret Terror Script Leaked.

It’s a tongue-in-cheek, partially humorous, partially tragic look at the periodically foiled ‘terror plots’ around the country.

Take a look and let me know what you think.


Infinity Squad by Shuvom Ghose – Review

I thoroughly enjoyed Infinity Squad.

Based on the premise of Earth’s military forces trying to tame and colonize a foreign planet while battling with dominant indigenous life form – Hell-spiders – Infinity Squad’s big sci-fi hook is that the humans have the capability of resurrecting their dead soldiers into cloned bodies – most of the time.

The characters, enjoyable and infuriating, are constantly required to make quick decisions and to live, or die, as a consequence. The storyline never stops moving.  There are plenty of twists to keep it interesting and to keep the reader wondering what’s going to happen next. The dialogue is crisp and readable, witty and humorous, and occassionally macabre – most notably when one of the main characters chooses to feed his previous body to the enemy spider.

Shuvom has done an excellent job teasing out the implications of having a military capable of regenerating its soldiers, and it’s these implications played out logically that really drive the story.

There is obviously some violence in the book – it is about an attempted military conquest of an alien planet. The cursing from the characters can be a bit heavy at times, and the story is spiced with sexual innuendo, but it all fits with the context of the story.

That’s what’s best about Infinity Squad, the story comes first. It’s entertaining, and it’s well worth the read.

Though Infinity Squad is centered around the military, the story is strongly anti-authoritarian. It’s not an outwardly libertarian book; there is little preaching. However, there are numerous one-liners and quips that should make liberty lovers smile, like:

“Forbidden are laws that benefit one group more than the rest, or ones that dictate what an adult may do inside his own cave.”


“Can’t I OD on weed or something?”…. “No one dies from that,”

The protagonists have to stand up for what they believe is right, against a brutal authority. I found myself not only liking but rooting for the characters that Shuvom has created.

If he can sell 1,000 copies, Shuvom has said he’ll write sequel. So please buy a copy and enjoy. I want to see what happens next to the members of Infinity Squad.

Own It Now !


My First Strike-The-Root Column

Today I posted more articles on Strike-The-Root as the Friday editor.

I also got my first Strike-The-Root column published Harming the Cause For Liberty.

It’s about a pet-peeve of mine regarding the use of the word harm when describing a libertarian philosophy (ie: “as long as you don’t harm anyone it’s ok”).

My main argument is that I think the word harm can be confused and twisted, that people trying to explain a libertarian philosophy,especially if they are trying to persaude others, would be better off talking about respecting individual rights and the concept of non-agression.

Read it and let me know what you think.


Liberty Festival Calendar

Are you a liberty lover looking to gather with like minded people?

Are you curious about the concepts of personal rights and independence?

Would you like to spend a day, weekend, or week in an environment and with people that will give you a taste of what it might be like to live in a truly free society?

Are you looking for debate, education, inspiration?

Join with others at one of the growing list of Liberty Festivals that are popping up around the country.

Here you’ll find a collection of all of the Liberty related festivals, gatherings, and conferences of which I’m aware.

Upcoming Liberty Festivals

If you know of one that should be added just add a comment to this page. I’ll check into it and add it to the list if it looks appropriate.

What’s appropriate?

Any conference, open gathering, or festival whose primary purpose is the promotion and/or celebration of liberty. I’m looking for events that embrace all aspects of liberty. I’m not looking for events that are single topic focused (i.e.: pro-second amendment, legalizing drugs, antiwar). I strongly support each of those, and other, efforts – they just don’t fit with the idea for this list.

I’ll err on the side of inclusiveness. If you have some criticism of an entry on the list, please add a thoughtful comment to the entry informing others of your concerns.

Again, for any event you think should be on the list but isn’t please add a comment to this page.

Sign up for the Liberty Festival Calendar Newsletter to be informed of newly added festivals.

Hope to see you each at one of the upcoming events.



I’m The New Strike-The-Root Friday Editor

I’ve been reading Strike-The-Root for years. It’s one of the leading liberty related web sites on the web.

Starting today, I’ll be the guest editor for Fridays. I’ll be the person responsible for the links and summaries posted to the home page.

Strike-The-Root is one of the those web sites that I try to check daily. The quality of the original columns and the links have always been high, and I always find interesting, and often infuriating, things to read.

One of the best parts of Strike-The-Root is the spectacular pictures. Each day Rob, who runs the site, leads the articles with a beautiful image. Just sitting and admiring the beauty is a great way to start the day.

Take a look and let me know what you think.


Mr. Hunter – The First Chapter and The Course of Empire – Review

The first installment of the weekly Art of Liberty series.

What do you get when you combine passionate music, thoughtful lyrics, a beautiful voice, a series of paintings from the early 1800s, Austrian Economics, a bit of jazz, bluegrass, classical music, and a dog?

You get the inspiring music of Mr. Hunter.

I hadn’t heard of Mr. Hunter until looking through the list of events a couple weeks before the Free State Project‘s annual event, PorcFest 2012. Being always on the lookout for new, interesting music, especially with philosophies that are in tune with my own, I hunted down their website and listened to few samples of their music. Liking what I heard, I jumped over to CD Baby to grab their entire first album, The First Chapter Each time I listened I liked the album more, and I grew more excited about seeing them play live.

I was especially excited to hear the premier of their new album, The Course of Empire, which is based on series of paintings of the same name, created by Thomas Cole in the early 1800s. The premier of The Course of Empire did not disappoint. I was blown away by the not only the theme of the album, but also the lyrics, and the musicianship.

Mr. Hunter features Chris Marcus as creator, writer, and guitarist, and Kara Ayn Napolitano on vocals. They are backed by Jason Yaeger (piano and organ), David Lowenthal (bass), and Rossen Nedelchev (drums). Their sound doesn’t fit into a standard box. Their music is a combination of jazz, rock, improv, with an occasional splash of classical and bluegrass – so far. The music and the rhythms are intricate and constantly changing. The piano and guitar continuously trade off prominence, creating a growing energy and feeling of lightness and hope, topped off by Chris’ guitar solos which build with a steadily rolling, forward driving power.

Kara Ayn’s voice on the albums is crisp and clear, with an understated strength, which really came out in the live show. Mr. Hunter’s sound is not too loud, but it’s not too soft either. It has a power and intensity that comes from the structure of the music, the meaning of the lyrics, and the vocal delivery of the songs. The music lacks the distortion and over-engineering that masquerades as power in a lot of today’s music.

The First Chapter

The First Chapter is an introspective album, centered around one person’s search for freedom, growth, and meaning.

The summary of the album on its back cover says it better than I could paraphrase:

The First Chapter is a story about life, nature, dreams, and following what you believe in. The music is a narrative of the journey of life, the choices we are faced with, and how we choose to respond.

What is right and what is wrong. What is real and what is imagined. Dreaming or awake. Alive or only existing. Would it be better to be blissfully delusional in a rational world or clearheaded in a fantasy that doesn’t exist. There is or isn’t an answer to all of these questions but if we choose to continue to search after the things we love we might find them as well as ourselves.

Two of the songs in particular stand out for me. The Corner, which best highlights their sound and style, is by far my favorite.

The Corner starts with a hint of the guitar solo at the beginning, the solo pops back into the song and drops out throughout the vocal, until finally taking off for a long, soaring ride. Kara Ayn’s voice fits the song beautifully, starting out in a lower, more powerful range. Underlayed by a fantastic groove, I just close my eyes and fly away as the song builds. When the song’s done, I feel like I can do anything.

My second favorite on this album, Morse Code on the other hand departs completely from the rest of the album musically, but fits in the context of the story. Best described as electronic bluegrass, it’s a high speed, fun song that’s a spirited nod to guitarist Steve Morse.

Lyrically, The First Chapter consists of straight-forward, honest personal observations about growth, change, and personal discovery. A few of my favorite lyrical bits are

  • from WelcomeEven if I fail, I’ll grow, It’s finally time to start my show
  • from I BelieveHe had a talent that was matched by few. All he needed to hear was I believe in you
  • from The Stranger- a few notes about forgiveness and kindness, attributes overlooked at times when discussing liberty
    • Let go of our anger allow it to end
    • Are we helping each other or is it a crime, to give to a stranger some of your time, no one will force you if you’re not inclined, as long as you realize it’s ok to be kind

One final note, I’ve always loved album liner notes and lyrics. Unfortunately many bands have gotten away from liner notes, and with the move to electronically delivery of music, in most cases they have disappeared completed, which I find to be a loss. The liner notes in the physical CD for The First Chapter are excellent, including full lyrics, plus vibrant and meaningful images that tie in with the theme and message of each song.

The First Chapter is worth a few listens, the first couple of times I wasn’t blown away. With each subsequent listen I found more to like about the album. I’ve found, for me, this is a mark of albums that having staying power.

The Course of Empire

The inspiration for The Course of Empire album comes from a series of five early 1800s painting by Thomas Cole. The album is an ambitious attempt to take the paintings’ theme of the rise and fall of empires and translate it into an album- length symphony.

Chris Marcus and Mr. Hunter were up to the challenge and created an inspiring and moving range of pieces that fits the stages of the paintings beautifully. The music, like their first album, is full of nicely woven, intricate threads and changes paralleling the overall story.

Lyrically, The Course of Empire, is a tremendous leap up from The First Chapter. The album has a very strong undercurrent of Austrian Economics, touching on topics from production to free trade, debt and taxes. How many songs have you heard that include name Maynard Keynes in their lyrics- and actually make it work?

I’ve highlighted my impressions below and some of my favorite lines, but to truly appreciate The Course of Empire, I would recommend leaning back in your favorite chair, putting on a set of headphones and listening to the album beginning to end, without interruption - a couple of times.

Here’s the entire first performance of The Course of Empire from PorcFest 2012:

The Savage State starts with a tribal drum beat, slowly building towards an upbeat and positive tone and theme of liberty. The music says ‘I am free’. The song is a wonderful summary of a philosophy of liberty – combining economics, work, love, honesty, non-agression, hope.

I will grow and I’ll learn, I’ll produce and I’ll earn, I will bid my time and wait for my turn and I’ll be free

I will search and explore I will open new doors, if I act in good faith I will afford more and I’ll be me

I’ll be fair when I deal, I will trade but not steal, work hard and I’ll prove that I earn every meal and I will see

That the greed of mind and the love of my heart can agree

Add in an excellent keyboard solo and a prescient quote from Benjamin Franklin and The Savage State is a stirring start to this symphony.

In Arcadia, growth and production never sounded so sexy, as sung about by Miss Kara Ayn.

Shared values and goals that united this clan that each man would earn and produce as he can

Creators and thinkers were encouraged in this way, their standard of life seemed to increase most everyday

Their great reward was freedom to do as they may, and the fortune of their land was held high on display

The land of Arcadia was the model of its time, a fountain of freedom, their needs were aligned

Where liberty reigned for society in it’s prime, they cared for their weak, tired, and poor by design

Arcadia was known as the utopia of its time, a wondrous pasture with virtues divine

While short of perfect the sun often shined on the life of a miracle that came to exist on prudence divine,

But the greatest of the land was about to embark on the greatest of times

Consummation of Empire is introduced by the beating of military drums. The Empire has begun. More smooth flowing guitar work and vocal, but trouble is brewing, including crippling taxes, debt and war.

After years of free living, and some unforced giving

At the first sign of trouble seems we lost our religion

We had it all working with the bright future lurking

Until we acquainted a Maynard Keynes

As the fountain started flowing, while the lies started growing

Was the people’s heart and money that the leaders kept a blowing

Once they gave up paying and the just started owing,

They knew it couldn’t last

Politicians were inducted, to the temples they constructed

The money that they wasted, always seemingly deducted

Though they knew very little of the others they instructed

And it rarely saved the day

Destruction is marked by the sad, lament of a piano, a nod to Atlas Shrugged, and fear for our children

We left the bill for all our children here, the helpless boys and girls

We left behind a world full of fear and peril

We left their hopes and dreams to twist and swirl

We should have tried to put the fire out

Desolation is haunted by a weeping piano, crying guitar, and echo of martial drums

God created in nature certain laws to obey,

Compassion, forgiveness, for that we now pray

 - and -

In the end was it worth it

Seems nobody won

We enslaved our producers with the force of our guns

And we passed the bill forward to our daughters and sons

When I think of what happened I can’t believe what we’ve done

All ending in a hopeful, somewhat encouraging guitar solo.

Unfortunately, there are no lyrics in the liner notes, however they were replaced by copies the Thomas Cole paintings. Kara Ayn’s singing is so clear, there shouldn’t be any problem learning what’s being said.

If you’re a fan of themed albums, you’re in for a treat with both Mr. Hunter albums.  The songs have a consistent theme, a common purpose and merge to tell a story. If you’re searching for intelligent, uplifting music, if you’re looking for a unique blend of jazz and rock, get their albums now.

These are two albums with contrasting focuses but a common theme. The First Chapter is about the journey of a single person. The Course of Empire‘s scope is of an entire civilization. Both share a vision of the pursuit of life as an adventure, a productive journey of love and purpose.

Mr. Hunter Live

Mr. Hunter is a putting together a Fall 2012 Tour, with dates on the West Coast, including Libertopia 2012, as well as New England, hopefully including New Hampshire. If you get a chance to see them, don’t miss it.

In the meantime, listen to more music, learn more, buy the album, and signup for their newsletter to keep up to date at

Mr. Hunter: The First Chapter


Oh, about the dog – Mr. Hunter is named after Chris’ dog, Mr. Hunter :)


Please support Artists of Liberty so they create more works and encourage more people to embrace a culture of liberty. If you’d like to read about more artists writing about, painting, sculpting, promoting liberty, and attempting to live free, please add your name to my mailing list (upper right corner of right column) and don’t miss any of the Art of Liberty series.


First They…Submit Your Own Poem

Sorry, submissions have been temporarily suspended.


Have an idea for a poem that will fit with the theme of the other First They… poems?

Post it to the comments section or send it in via email (see contacts page).

I’ll review it and if it’s a good fit I’ll add it to the site. You’ll get full credit and a link back to your web site or blog if you have one.

Please only submit poems that are your own work. If you find someone else’s poem on the web just post a link in the comments or send me an email and I’ll link to it.


First They Came For…Links

The following links provide more detailed information about Martin Niemöller and his famous poem:


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