232. Son of Dust – Randy Matthews

SON OF DUST (1973)

Randy Matthews

Randy Matthews may be the single most important artist in Christian music that the vast majority of CCM fans have never heard of. Even casual fans of the genre are familiar with randy Stonehill, Phil Keaggy, Larry Norman and Love Song, but few can name Randy Matthews. Yet, without Matthews and his early success and ground breaking, the industry that formed may have never stood a chance.

After dabbling in Southern Gospel with his father Monty (a founding member of the Jordanaires), Matthews took to a more folk rock approach and began performing in coffee shops and small concert halls building a name for himself as a songwriter and performer. His infusion of dry and biting humor in concert was legendary.

As a result, Matthews became the first “rock” act to be signed to a mainline Christian label. Word Record, a label known for spoken work and Southern Gospel acts, signed Matthews and he released his debut. For his next album Word would launch the Myrrh label to provide a platform for the new “Jesus Rock” that was beginning to break through. Matthews would be seen as the “rockiest” with his more blues influenced music and Joe Cocker like rough vocals. The rest of the movement was a little softer, employing a more folk and country driven sound.

This would haunt Matthews and ultimately cause a disillusionment with Christian Music. In fact, while touring in support of Son of Dust, Matthews appeared at a large outdoor Christian music festival.  The audience was more accustomed to the Love Song acoustic folk style and Randy’s raucous rock cause such an uproar that their instruments were unplugged and were chased off the stage by the crowd. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, Matthews would later release an album called “Plugged In” where that story would be recounted.

Fans of The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Van Morrison and Larry Norman will find much to appreciate on this album that is now considered a true classic of Jesus Music.   On Son of Dust Matthews addresses more political, spiritual and emotional issues than what his contemporaries were willing to look at. Relationships, sin, society and the whole of life are addressed with an honesty that would not be seen very often in the industry until the 1980’s.

The album is also noteworthy for the studio version of Matthews most memorable and time tested classic. Didn’t He. The story of the crucifixion is, in this reviewers opinion, the very best contemporary song written on the subject. Matthews emotive and scratchy voice delivers an unforgettable emotional experience. Matthews pounds his acoustic guitar for every time the hammer hits the nail and that sound hits the heart. One cannot listen to this song without some sort of emotional connection.  If there is ever a list to be done of the greatest songs in CCM history this must be among the Top 5!

Amongst the great albums of Jesus Music history, this is a must have and an unquestionable AYSO!

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  1. Shawn McLaughlin
    November 25, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Ah, Red Beard the Pirate. This is my favorite work of his. He had a later career artistic revival with the release “Edge of Flight” on Billy Smiley’s Wave Records label. One of those unheard gems that means a whole lot to about 7 people. Son of Dust is his masterwork, however and, if not for the incident at Expo 72, probably would have propelled him to the type of notoriety shared by Norman, Stonehill and Keaggy. The talent is certainly there.

  2. Brian
    November 25, 2010 at 1:21 am

    From his self titled album (82 I believe) is where I learned of RM. His song MIRACLE MAN may be my single favorite song of CCM history. I was hooked upon first listen. Only a few songs have done that for me and stayed with all these years.

    Which Side Are You ON is also another RM hit I enjoy from that album… Never heard this one though… will have to check it out.

  3. Greenchili
    December 7, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Ahh finally got to hear the studio version of “Didn’t He”… a great song indeed and yes Randy Matthew is a trip to listen to in concert. Shame about what happened at the concert..

  4. Greenchili
    December 7, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Geoff Moore did a cover of “Didn’t He” on his “The Distance” album.

  5. y2daddy
    February 1, 2012 at 1:39 am

    I don’t think it was Explo ’72 where the incident took place, I always thought it was in Pennsylvania.

    • low5point
      February 1, 2012 at 5:26 am

      I believe it was a predecessor to Creation fest

  6. Craig Krueger
    August 14, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    It was at “Jesus 75”

  7. zen
    August 26, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    I was part of a small group that promoted CCM in Calgary Alberta in the late 70’s. We brought RM into the Lord Beaverbrook Hall twice. Listening to Randy was amazing and emotional. He was 100% real, and 100% believer. I met him in the bathroom right before the show and he asked me for a cigarette. “This is a tough one to kick” he told me! Randy was 5 years older than me, and I admired his faith. I was a new Christian at the time, and I had come to faith on the road, hitch hiking all over and up to Alaska. When I met Jesus it was an event, all alone on the roadside. The Spirit was being poured out on youth back then. I was 19. Memories! God bless you Randy my brother, your early work will bring much fruit to the throne of God! I love you.

  8. Dr J
    November 19, 2013 at 1:51 am

    It was Jesus 74. I had been at Jesus 73 in PA the previous year where he performed and then heard him several months later at a coffee house in Buffalo, NY, After the concert I told him I’d see him that coming summer at Jesus 74. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend and witness in person what went down. He wrote a song about the experience that appeared on his 1975 album, “Eyes to the Sky.”

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