Five years ago, Matt Baumann was exploring the fringes of avant garde Jazz and creating sparse Ambient soundscapes with nothing more than his alto/tenor saxophones (he occasionally duoed with friends Eric Barnett and Jim Feist, but largely worked on his own) and a vision of crafting a quietly powerful body of work. At the time of our last interview, in late 2008, Baumann namechecked all the right Jazz influences — John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Jan Garbarek — but he also ticked off a number of singer/songwriters whose work had been more inspirational than influential, from Warren Zevon and Tom Waits to Jason Molina and David Bazan, saying that he attempted to channel their passion and not necessarily their method of expressing it.
In 2011, disillusioned with the local Jazz scene, Baumann opted for the singer/songwriter route, learning to play the plectrum banjo but maintaining his lone wolf performing status. That may well have been Baumann's inspiration for adopting the nom de plume of WolfCryer, as well as his desire to begin a fresh new direction.
His acclaimed eponymous debut EP dropped in 2012 and he's been steadily working the Folk/Americana scene ever since, but the last few months have been especially productive with the release of a trio of evocative, emotionally engaging and typically atmospheric EPs. The first,The Long Ride Home, dropped quietly last September and showcased a new WolfCryer of sorts, as Baumann added acoustic guitar and harmonica to an arsenal already loaded with melancholy melodicism ("Roll Call of Ghosts") and intelligent wordplay ("Never Carry More Than You Can Hold").
The next two WolfCryer EPs, sporting four tracks each, have come in fairly rapid succession; Hell's Coming Down came out at the end of November and Wild Spaces dropped on New Year's Day, both generally following the template of The Long Ride Home and both stacked with highlights, like the lovely "Andromeda" and winsome "whiskeyheart" (where Baumann's banjo makes a welcome reappearance) on the former, the expansive "Lonely Country" and the heartrending "Better to Be" on the latter.
Baumann was a cluster recordist back in his Jazz days, and that aspect of his creative life hasn't changed much; on the heels of his last three EPs, released over the course of the last three months, his plans for the new year include both his debut and sophomore full-length albums (the proposed title track for the latter, "Box of Bones," is posted below). Originally slated for next month, WolfCryer's debut album, The Ivory in the Narrows, has been pushed to a summer release, but his Feb. 15 release show at Southgate House Revival remains intact as Baumann is re-releasing The Long Ride Home, which was never given an actual official release in the first place.
If you think a guy and a guitar is drab, give WolfCryer a shot; given the slightest opportunity, he'll build a quiet and beautiful new room in your heart.