With a sprawling backstory that includes a veritable pantheon of Nashville’s biggest names, The Kingston Springs Suite may be the greatest undiscovered treasure of the outlaw country era. Recorded in 1972 with the help of Johnny Cash, Shel Silverstein, Kris Kristofferson and “Cowboy” Jack Clement, the album has been hidden in the vaults until now. A prophetic, loose and gritty Polaroid snapshot into the lives of a small town of an America gone by, The Kingston Springs Suite has finally now been released through the Delmore Recording Society.
The Kingston Springs Suite first premiered via an exclusive album stream at The A.V. Club. The track “Bessie That’s A Lie” was the first song to be shared from the album, and first premiered with The Boot. Aquarium Drunkard notes, “Confederate ghosts and oak trees loom over the record, about people and a town in transition, grappling with the heritage of their past and the uncertainty of their future.”
Produced by the one and only Shel Silverstein – with help from Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Cowboy Jack Clement – The Kingston Springs Suite paints a crystal clear picture of the town’s life and its lore, of residents like blacksmith Vernon Newsom (“Mr. Soul”) and “Mr. Sam” The Railroad Man. Songs like “Melva’s Wine” and “Five Hundred Houses” are remarkably rich helpings of evanescent Americana, Matthews and Casey trading rough but resonant vocals over an outlaw symphony of front porch folk and traditional country, honky-tonk balladry laced with the mellow fug of early 70’s rock. Finely etched and naturalistic, The Kingston Spring Suite captures the final breath of Smalltown USA before suburban sprawl commenced its proliferation over the land.
Despite its undeniable artistry and celebrity pedigree, Matthews’ lifelong knack for self-sabotage saw his defining work disappear into country music history. The Kingston Springs Suite became a cautionary Nashville tale, a secret totem heard of by few and actually heard by even fewer. Matthews died November 22, 2003, his obituary a reminder of how fleeting success in Music City can be. More than four decades later Delmore Recording Society – known for classic archival releases from Karen Dalton, Gary Stewart and Peter Walker, and home to the indescribable chanteuse Diana Darby – has made Vince Matthews & Jim Casey’s The Kingston Springs Suite available for the first time, offering a chance for the world to finally hear a milestone piece of American music applauded by Johnny Cash as “a laid-out slice of life as lived and learned by a laid-back country picker who knows and loves and understands the people like you’ll find at Kingston Springs.”