Matt Cadenelli (aka The Don of Division Street) writes songs with heart, integrity, and observant wisdom. His song-centric, melodious vistas rock hard with insightful lyrical musings. The man is multi-instrumentally adept and his voice, though reminiscent of the giants of the genre, is all his own.
Originally from the Jersey Shore, Cadenelli landed in Portland in the last moments of the twentieth century and was dubbed The Don of Division Street because he lived there before it turned into the monstrosity it has become these days. Over the years he’s played with so many bands: Fernando, Dr. Theopolis, Celilo, Lewi Longmire Band, and Portland Country Underground. These days you can see him with Wanderlodge, Deadstring Family Band, Root Jack, Taylor Kingman & Friends, Mcdougall & Friends, Anita Lee & the Handsome 3 as well as his own Don of Division Street Band that includes Jason Montgomery, Anita Lee Elliot, Tate Peterson and James Pearson.
Cadenelli’s new album, Fire Bird is, in his words, a “telling of transpersonal heartbreak, emotional confusion, and mythological connection” ably translated via The Don’s own alchemical brand of rock and roll. The cycle of songs are inspired by Michael Meade’s version of the ancient Slavic myth and the tunes make themselves right at home in a yearning 21st century heart.
Cadenelli sums up the tale:“A young, ambitious knight riding his horse through the woods comes across a special feather, the largest most beautiful he’s ever seen. Overtaken by its beauty, his magical horse tells him, “Let it be; that is the feather of the Fire Bird and it will only bring you trouble and harm.
“The young knight is so enraptured by the feathers’ beauty, he insists on taking it to the King to show off the treasure. The rest of the myth ensues as a story of great trouble and harm that comes to him.”
The eight catchy, energetic tunes are bookended by two very different versions of Fire Bird, and soar: August Moon, Hope, Green Volvo and the instrumental Fire Bird Theme, (a gorgeous contemplation) is the perfect doorway to the album’s second half. It is a tale with a beginning, middle and resolution.
The roster of Don-friends who contribute color, chops and vision here make up quite the list of exceptional Portland talent, and Cadenelli’s songs shine through with a power and grace of their own. The whole disc is radio-friendly and a fine companion in the car. Fire Bird is a high energy road trip with plenty to look at out the window. Stream it and buy it at thedonofdivisionstreet.bandcamp.com.