Blueblood Records [Release date 11.11.16]
Eddie Martin has always been an independent blues artist. He’s equally happy playing country blues as he is exploring Texas grit or Chicago blues, but it’s when he colours his own blues hybrid that he is at his best.
He stretches out in style on ‘Black, White and Blue’, his excellent 15th album and one that should finally bring him long overdue recognition as a bluesman of real substance.
It boasts consistent strong songs, lyrical depth and occasional ethereal moments, realized by his own multi- instrumental ability and a versatile rhythm section comprising bassist Zak Ranyard and drummer Tom Gilkes.
He’s equally happy as a solo artist (he was a Best Solo/Acoustic Artist finalist in The European Blues Awards 2016), or in a band, or big band format, as on his last ‘Live In Tuscany’ album, which he described as “World Orchestral Blues“.
Here it’s all about nailing the lyrics and exploring deep grooves with subtle tonal variations, as well as a vocal style that moves from introspective to ebullient.
He’s Bristol based, but on the evidence of his music you’d never know that, as he’s totally convincing as a blues artist who uses a traditional blues format in a contemporary way.
Listen to the slide-led ‘Grateful Ways’ for example, on which he evokes a fusion of Santo & Johnny’s ‘Sleepwalk’ and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’, before moving into the main body of the song, which isn’t too far removed from ‘It Hurts Me Too’.
Overall it’s the work of an experienced player who can change the mood of a song with a single phrase or different tone.
‘Mississippi Sound’ is an apt title for a song that is a catalyst for a broad blues based musical journey. It start’s with a slide-led boogie full of harp, guitar and whispered close to the mic vocals, as he references blues giants like John Lee Hooker, Elmore James and Magic Sam.
He’s humorous too on tracks like ‘Too Much Choice’: “100 music channels and not one of them plays the blues!” In the same song there’s also a classic rumination on water: “I’m buying bottled water, fresh from a mountain spring, it just fell out of the sky, but they charge me what I pay for gin ”
Then there’s the funny call and response section of ’I've Lost My Phone’, voiced over a jump blues arrangement with a crisp tone and a tension building solo and cool cymbal work.
He delivers meaningful blues narratives over tight arrangements, bolstered by fine harp work and some gritty guitar as he revels in subtle dynamics. He’s joined on harmony vocals by Elles Bailey for the hook of ‘I Choose You’ and he flirts over sundry blues styles to emphasise a story or a mood, or as on ‘Angry’, sheer frustration.
The latter is full of vicious guitar work that evokes the thematic title on a sludgy down in the alley feel, complete with wailing harp and a dirt sounding guitar tone, before a caustic political rap and a climatic solo with a gnawing tone.
He’s almost chameleon like throughout, as he opts for a chiming slide on the questioning lyrics of ‘How’, while on the reflective ‘Song Of 5 Things’ he cleverly mirrors his own vocal line with his slide guitar.
He finishes with ‘It All Depends’, a beautifully sculpted slide-led guitar piece with an emotive tone and a John Lee Hooker meets Peter Green feel. It’s notable for its use of space and time as it explores real feel.
His whispered vocals over a dirgy and stuttering Hill country blues rhythm pattern evokes a portentous ethereal mood, before its subsumed in a gentle echo-reverb fade.
It’s the perfect finish to a superbly crafted album. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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