Matt Woods

Matt Woods is both a native of Iowa, and a longstanding purveyor of its diverse music scene.  As a seasoned performer of many local, regional and national venues, Matt has developed a distinct style while staying true to his love of traditional American music.  Woods is well versed in the many shapes this music can take; from traditional delta, hill country and urban electric blues, to gospel, country and folk music.

In addition to performing 100+ shows per year as a solo act, playing with several roots oriented bands and backing up some of the finest songwriters in the Midwest, Matt can often be found in the studio, adding guitar parts to a diverse array of recordings.


Photo by Jen Taylor

Woods has been performing regularly since 2002 and to date has released 5 independent albums (3 solo albums, and 2 albums backed by his unparalleled band, The Thunderbolts).  He has also won the Iowa Blues Challenge and gone on to represent the state in the International Blues Challenge an unprecedented 3 times.  Matt’s first solo album, “If I Was a Fish”, finished in the top 5 of The Blues Foundation’s “best self-produced CD” category in 2006.  His two subsequent albums with The Thunderbolts, have also gained national attention.  2007’s “Be My Friend”, was referred to as “blistering” by Dirty Linen magazine, and Living Blues magazine called 2010’s “Matt Woods and The Thunderbolts”, “a smoking amalgam of Hound Dog Taylor and Freddy King”. Additionally, Blues Revue called the album; “raw, hypnotic and very appealing”.  In 2015 Matt released “Sawdust and Gasoline”, his first solo album comprised completely of original material.  It went on to receive extensive airplay in the U.S. and Europe and also finished in the top 5 of The Blues Foundation’s “best self-produced CD” category for 2015. “Sawdust and Gasoline” was also nominated by Blues Blast Magazine for album of the year in the “Acoustic Blues” category!

In 2018 Matt Woods released his fifth studio album, “Tired and Dirty” to critical acclaim.  Like its predecessor, “Tired and Dirty” is comprised completely of original material in an age old tradition, featuring slashing slide guitar, deft songwriting and powerful vocals.

Over the course of his career, Matt has shared the stage with many notable acts, including; Hubert Sumlin, James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, Louisiana Red, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, John Primer, Rj Mischo, James Harman, Nathan James, Delbert McClinton, The Arc Angels, Dr. John, Kelly Hunt, Joe Price and many more.  In 2010, Matt Woods and The Thunderbolts opened for Pat Benetar and REO Speedwagon at the famed Iowa State Fair Grandstand to a crowd of 10,000+!  As a point of pride, Matt Woods and The Thunderbolts are the only local band, before or since, to play the Iowa State Fair Grandstand.

Arbuckle & Woods

Midwestern roots, blues, & folk music duo. Dustin Arbuckle and Matt Woods have been hard at work on the blues and roots music scene for nearly two decades. After years of hearing and admiring each other’s music, Arbuckle and Woods finally connected and began playing together in 2018. The two quickly developed a strong musical chemistry based on their mutual passion for old-school blues.


Matt Woods and The Thunderbolts


Photo by Rebecca Swanger

The great Mississippi Fred McDowell once said, “I don’t play no rock ‘n’ roll.” The same can be said about Matt Woods and The Thunderbolts who proclaim on their new album: “You want some rock ‘n’ roll, but you’re gonna get a blues attack.”

Since their formation in 2005, singer-guitarist Matt Woods, bassist Scott Cochran and drummer Michael Swanger have carved a niche for themselves as uncompromising purveyors of traditional blues. However, their admiration for the blues masters goes beyond mere imitation as they have created their own timeless sound and songs.

Their third independent album, “Matt Woods and The Thunderbolts,” features 10 original songs (“Blues Attack,” “Work,” “Cold Water,” “I Can’t Live Without You”) that capture the band’s true-life emotions, humor and candor. It also includes two covers of songs by Son House (“Louise McGhee”) and Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside (“Skinny Woman/All Night Long”).

Released in February 2010, “Matt Woods and The Thunderbolts” finds the tight-knit trio further down the road of the path they blazed with their two previous critically-acclaimed albums, 2006’s “If I Was A Fish” (Top 5 in the Blues Foundation’s “Best Self-Produced CD” international competition) and 2007’s “Be My Friend” (Dirty Linen magazine said, “These blistering blues will get you spinning out on a cool midnight ride to the crossroads.”) as they storm through a raucous collection of thumping shuffles and stomping slide workouts that harken the ghosts of Hound Dog Taylor, Kimbrough and Burnside.

Since its release, the Des Moines-based band’s new album has garnered critical acclaim and airplay. Living Blues magazine (August 2010), no less, called it a “smoking amalgam of Hound Dog Taylor and Freddy King” in its 40th anniversary issue, adding, “Woods’ singing and guitar playing are both intense but unforced, and the set provides ample proof that a band doesn’t have to come from the south side of Chicago to really rock the house.”

People have been partying to this kind of music for 150 years,” says Woods. “We try to keep that vibe and make sure everybody has a good time.

Winners of the 2006 and 2007 Iowa Blues Challenge and semi-finalists in the 2007 and 2008 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Matt Woods and The Thunderbolts have graced the biggest blues stages in their native Iowa (Mississippi Valley Blues Fest, Living History Blues Fest, KUNI Blues Blowout, Bowlful of Blues, Bluesmore, Blues Under The Trees, Simply the Blues, Nitefall on the River, Val Air Ballroom). They have also played some of its most heralded clubs, including the legendary Blues on Grand, where they were the house band for nearly four years, as well as The Maintenance Shop and The Redstone Room.

Over the years, they have shared stages with Hubert Sumlin, James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, Louisiana Red, Eddy Clearwater, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, John Primer, Delbert McClinton and the Arc Angels. In August 2010, the band became the first Iowa act in several years to play the Iowa State Fair Grandstand, opening for Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon before a crowd of approximately 10,000 people.

Now in their fifth year, Matt Woods and The Thunderbolts continue to prove themselves to be one of the hardest working, well-traveled bands in Des Moines, having packed venues from Beale Street to Main Street with their feel-good, party music.

Bad Luck City (Duo)


Photo by Rebecca Swanger

Bad Luck City consists of two-thirds of Matt Woods and The Thunderbolts. With Matt Woods on guitar and Michael Swanger on drums, Bad Luck City will give you a full dose of REAL juke house party music. This duo knows how to deliver stomping slide workouts and Blues-ified country.  Coming from the North Mississippi hill country tradition, Bad Luck City promises nothin’ fancy, just a low-down groove that’s raw as a saw blade and guaranteed to shake your ass!