We have heard Martin Harley in many guises the connection Is always quality authentic roots music, combining strong songwriting and guitar, with bottleneck slide guitar on his signature Weissenborn. Roll With The Punches, brings a new side of Martin has he plugs into a higher voltage electric energy with band driven music. The album has been recorded in a remote chapel, deep in the wilds of Pembrokeshire, this is a truly intimate and gritty analogue album. As Martin Harley Band Roll With The Punches
Opening with the title track we are enveloped in the gorgeous tones that Martin pulls from his guitar, this is a winning musical punch that sets the energy levels with a deep groove and the articulation of deep joy in singing, playing and recording the album. As an opening and title track, it is a winning demonstration the addition of the band adds textural interest without losing the essence of Martin’s playing. We are now in the mood for innovative, beguiling country blues and then we meet Marguerite. The storyteller creates a vocal tale that allows the lyrics to shine above the captivating guitar and rhythm section. Martin’s voice is both gentle and urgent as he intones her name and the band picks up the mood with a superb interlude as we reflect on the loneliness and pain of Marguerite. It is so often the third track that is the one that really decides your view of an album. On Hotel Lonely the tempo picks up with dynamism and the rolling drums from Harry Harding underpins the guitar that has an edge that tacks it out of the safety of the country sound. Grunge meets roots! My Verdict is this album is a keeper one that I will often return to. But will the seven tracks keep on producing the goods?
Does the album become more rocky, more electric, NO – on Brother we have a number that flows with a gentle tempo where the instrumentation wraps itself around Martin’s alluring vocals and the lyrics pop out as we are invited to ‘Call on me’. This is a comfort blanket there is stability and safety when you have a brother who is there when you need someone in a time of need. Then we twist away from Country Blues to a sting blues riff on If Tears Were Pennies this is electric blues! In Martin’s own words, “I’m ready to make a bigger noise… Muddy Waters invented electricity right?” This track packs another punch it is foot-tapping high-voltage blues that shimmers, fizzes and sparkles.
The road Martin is taking us on the album takes a turn back to the countryside with Clarbeston Renovation opening with a birdsong, that continues to augment the stunning slide guitar that features on this track. This is not the countryside of Nashville, but West Wales where the album was recorded. The effect on the guitar has an effect of power and vulnerability, hope and pain on an absorbing instrumental.
We are now back with honky-tonk piano as Jonny picks up the vibe on this upbeat bluesy number Shanghai as the album heads to the closing notes. The backing singers add another dimension and the song is outwardly looking, fun and a true contrast to the preceding instrument. Demonstrating once again the musical dexterity and skill of Martin Harley and the band. The penultimate track is percussive with a gilded edge added by the strumming guitar as Martin tells us he is Putting Down Roots. A cross-over number that is full of get up and go yet is about staying still it encompasses everything we love about Martin and his music. We are left with a foot-tapping, handclapping gospel, holler inspired number on The Time Is Now. We are in a hot church or venue we have seen the light we have heard the power and skill of musicians playing the music that they believe in and is rooted in the past and at the same time relevant and firmly placed I the here and now.
Martin Harley may have gone electric on a band focussed album the analogue recording has ensured that the sound is deep and melodic, and they have created an album that is beautiful and full of tracks that are so infectious you just have to listen to them again.
Bluesdoodles, recommends, buy the album and see Martin on tour and hear the songs live, I am positive they will be even better.
TENdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Roll With The Punches
- Hotel Lonely
- If Tears Were Pennies
- I’d Rather Be Lucky Than Rich
- Clarbeston Renovation
- Putting Down Roots
- The Time Is Now
Martin Harley – Guitars & Vocals
Jonny Henderson – Hammond
Rex Horan – Bass
Harry Harding – Drums