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Matthew Grimson was a gifted and singular songwriter who died in 2018 at the age of 50, leaving behind an enormous body of idiosyncratic work, much of which was never released. The recordings that circulated over the years were often heard by only a handful of people, most of whom lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Those who saw Matthew play — and especially those who were lucky enough to know him — considered him a brilliant and deeply human writer.

Matthew Grimson: Prize For Writing is an LP of 15 songs recorded on four-track cassette tape in the summer and fall of 1995. Matthew wrote and performed all of the songs with accompaniment on bass and drums from both Andrew Scott and Chris Murphy of Sloan, and Matt Murphy of The Super Friendz. Clive McNutt played slide guitar on one song.

Of the small group of people who ever heard these songs, fewer still own one of one of the cassettes dubbed by Matthew 25 years ago. In 2018, Joel Plaskett obtained the multitrack master cassettes from Matthew’s family and, with their permission, was able to remix these 15 songs at New Scotland Yard studio in Dartmouth, bringing additional clarity to the tracks and Matthew’s creative lyrics to the foreground.

Matthew was a unique visionary—as sensitive, uncompromising, funny, and fearless in his art as he was in his life. Some of his musical heroes included Warren Zevon, John Cale, Roky Erikson and Randy Newman, but neither Matthew nor his music fits an easy description. In his own words from one of his many notebooks: “Here lay psychological metal, verbose pop, queasy balladry, and odd trips.”

Matthew was immensely prolific and his song titles alone were evocative and full of imagination:  Bambi is FreeTo Kill a CatholicSave the NarwhalGet Lost Helen of Troy. His archives include hundreds of cassettes and CDs, journals, and notebooks full of lyrics, drawings and ideas, yet his music only reached a larger audience through cover versions by other artists.  Stood Up was covered by Sloan on their 1997 release, Live at a Sloan Party. Joel Plaskett covered Drifters Raus on his 2009 release, Three, and more recently, wrote a salute to Matthew called Matthew Grimson Songs, on his latest project, 44. Family Photo, co-written by Matthew and Al Tuck was recorded by Québecois folk duo Bette & Wallet for their 2008 album Voici.

While Matthew dubbed many cassettes for friends (complete with photocopied covers and handwritten liner notes) and sold a handful of CDs in local shops on consignment, Prize for Writing will mark his first release on 12” vinyl. The prospect that more people will hear Matthew Grimson’s music is exciting.  He is missed but his songs will live on.

This record is a co-release between Sloan’s murderecords (MUR064) and Joel Plaskett’s New Scotland Records (NSRLP015).