Boy-girl duo Striking Matches blow the roof off The Borderline


The Borderline, London, Monday, June 23, 2014:

Two sell-out shows at a small London club this week are a long way from superstardom but new country duo Striking Matches are halfway there already judging by the huge enthusiasm they generated on Monday night.

I’ve been to scores of gigs at this 275-capacity venue and have never, ever seen or heard anything like the level of cheering, whistling and sheer unbridled joy provoked by American singer-songwriters Sarah Zimmermann and Justin Davis, both 27. They just about blew the roof off the place.

On a sticky summer night the place was packed, hot and sweaty but with such a happy vibe in the room that physical discomfort was quickly forgotten (except by the guy in front of me, who collapsed and fainted).

Support act The Shires put everyone in a good mood with a British take on boy-girl country harmonising. Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes have great songs and exceptional voices and left everyone wanting more.

But Striking Matches were the main event and these headlining UK shows have been much anticipated since the C2C festival at the O2 Arena back in March. They weren’t even playing on the main stage, but after completely stealing the show at a warm-up gig they were the talk of the whole event and I saw hundreds of new fans queuing for autographs and pictures the next day.

So far they have released just one EP but Monday night’s Borderline crowd knew their songs and sang the chorus of breakthrough hit When The Right One Comes Along with such warmth that Sarah Zimmermann broke down with emotion as she filmed us all on her phone for her mum.

Brian Hancill
Justin and Sarah of Striking Matches and (right) Crissie and Ben of support act The Shires



So what’s so good about Striking Matches? Well… how about beautiful melodies, thoughtful words, harmonies to make your hairs stand on end, astonishing instrumental skill, and on top of all that, an energy level that starts on maximum and stays there all night.

The amount of drive and propulsion they can generate with two acoustic guitars is astonishing. Not with plain strumming either. Their playing is so intricate and their chord structures so unusual that I was reminded of early songs by David Crosby and the lovely acoustic bits of Led Zeppelin III.

Striking Matches have had six of their songs used on Nashville, the excellent country music TV soap opera. And they brought on two of its cast members to sing along for a few numbers. First they made up a trio with Sam Palladio (who plays Gunnar and is in fact from Cornwall) for a beautiful new song called Take Shelter. Then they became a one-song quartet with gorgeous American actress Chaley Rose, who plays Zoe in the show.

The first Striking Matches album is in the can already after sessions last month with multi-award-winning producer T. Bone Burnett and I can hardly wait to hear it.

They finished Monday night’s show with a cover of the Eric Clapton hit Change The World. When that album comes out I think they probably will.