304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – – a wonderful album of blues and blues-rock performed by a trio of musicians who understand the blues and each other and combine to make a powerful statement.
Belfast born singer/songwriter Dom Martin has just released his second studio album called A Savage Life against, inevitably, the backdrop of lockdowns and coloured by the loss of a close friend. As Dom says, “…it’s part of my life story and is also, in a small part, in memory of a great friend who passed away in 2021. It’s my blues, it’s real and I have to live with it!” His first studio album, Spain to Italy, his Live at the Harlington lockdown release and his debut EP Easy Way Out are all worth checking out…the brilliant Antrim Blues, the Gallagher covers or the simply brilliant Dry Bone Rag (both versions) that had me re-listening to Weaver and Beasley. They all bode well for this one…he’s taken time and meticulously planned the ten tracks, going so far as to reject one song and replace it during recording. Dom’s usual mix of acoustic and electric continues and the balance is well judged so that the music flows as seamlessly as his stream of consciousness
The opening song, Unsatisfied, is the late addition: its blues-rock par excellence in the vein of Free as part of a power trio is summed up neatly. There’s a touch of Trower in the first solo section that is worth the price of the album on its own. The bass and drums are simply superb too as they lay down the bedrock for Dom’s vocal and guitar prowess to shine.
Here Comes the River is, in Dom’s words “about drowning in despair of the music industry and how it works or doesn’t.” Set to a gentle strummed electric with some delightful overdubbed soloing in and around it, with a (relatively) gentle vocal that fits perfectly and almost belies the story that unfolds…although, like all of the best lyrics, it is easy to get the tale to fit something very personal.
The next track is his musical tribute to a festival held in his homeland, but lyrically about his childhood dreams. Called Blues on the Bay, this is another slow blues that feels like a combination of the first two tracks but totally different! More excellent bass and guitar make for another stunner of a track in a Gary Moore vein. The Man From Nowhere lifts the tempo and the mood as the hissing of the needle on vinyl heralds a picked acoustic workout that is packed with humour as well as extremely skilful playing…the lyrics are humorous at times too.
Back to blues-rock with a song that was written with the assistance of alcohol and so Dom cannot explain most of it! Nevertheless, the weighty 12 Gauge is another example of three musicians in harmony and on fire with some simply brilliant soloing and disappointment only when it suddenly cuts off…could have been longer. Echoes “is about loss and finding things that used to belong to souls that have passed on, and convinces from the complex chord work on the acoustic through the Celtic feeling to the melodies and vocals…a strange choice as a single perhaps, but still strong.
Drink in Blue Colours brings a hint of jazz to the proceedings courtesy of the warm tones and clever tremolo work on the guitar introduction. The soloing is pure blues with a rock edge and works well with the gentler phrasing behind the verses. Addict has a sudden start that pulls you straight into an acoustic, vocal story of addiction that pulls no punches as Dom sings the tale over glistening, picked chord work with the closing phrasing particularly excellent. The penultimate track is an instrumental: Maxwell Shuffle is the tribute to his friend and is a shuffle, but with blues and rock neatly overlaid…it is excellent from first note to last. Dom has managed to combine the sound of Hendrix, SRV and Gallagher into his own distinct style and playing that reflects his friend, Gordon Maxwell’s influences. It has skill, bounce and humour and the only shame is that it’s only three minutes long.
The final track, The Parting Glass, is a traditional arrangement of an old Scottish lament written around the 1760’s by that prolific writer, “anon”. Don explains: “It is frequently played at Celtic wakes and I was recording this for Gordon after his cremation.” It is certainly moving and the gentle, judicious electric guitar suits the mood well…and the ending is superb. It may seem somewhat ‘down’ to end an album like this but is so well executed that it actually fits with the light and shade elsewhere. This is an album that scratches every blues itch and is full of surprises and hidden nuances that will appear on subsequent listens as your ear tunes into the various elements…so make sure you play this through many times and so get the full benefit of the skills on display
Here Comes the River
Blues on the Bay
The Man From Nowhere
Drink in Blue Colours
The Parting Glass
Dom Martin – Vocals, Guitar
Dave Thompson – Bass Guitar
Laurence McKeown – Drums
Recorded in Belfast and Dublin
(iTunes moved from Dom to Don and Don Airey’s solo albums: his All Out solo from 2011 was first in line and the weighty rock of The Way I Feel Inside.)