I must have seen Martyn Joseph half a dozen times over the years, starting in 2002 with the Faith, Folk and Anarchy tour with Steve Knightley and Tom Robinson. I’m still not sure why, but I just didn’t get him until Cropredy 2010. 20,000 people listening to one man and his guitar and suddenly, with Cardiff Bay, he was singing just for me. Talk about a slow burn of appreciation.
Listening to his latest album, Songs For The Coming Home, I realised that as, following my epiphany in 2010, I hadn’t rushed out to catch up on his back catalogue, this was my introduction to the recorded Martyn Joseph. It’s different. There are some seriously big arrangements here, credited to album producer Mason Neely. Several tracks feature guests contributing cello, violin and double bass in various combinations, whilst Neely himself provides percussion and keyboards pretty much throughout. That’s a lot of sound and at the centre of it all is the voice and song writing talent of Martyn. His ‘one take’ approach to recording songs has become something of a trade mark and here it has ensured that the live performance qualities so valued from his gigs are carried on into the studio.
It seems anything written about Martyn’s career sooner or later includes the phrase ‘concern for social justice’ and he’s certainly not afraid of using it about himself. Past songs have focussed attention on the landless of Brazil, Kosovo refugees and the plight of miners in his native South Wales amongst many others. Such global concerns largely take a back seat on this album, though there are some well aimed barbs directed at the financial world in Beyond Us. In Not A Good Time For God the mood is more sadness than anger as he surveys the sorry state of religious belief in today’s world, ranging from ignorance to the utterly corrupted beliefs of those who kill in the name of a God.
A more consistent theme is encapsulated in the album’s title; it is music to bring us home. Home, though, not as a physical space, more a state of mind. As Martyn would have it – “returning to a place of solace, understanding, compassion, a place of justice, mercy and peace.” But lest we think that the fire of social justice is no longer burning in his belly, he adds “That despite the carnage around us we can still save the day.” Clara tells the true story of a young girl employed to nanny a younger boy rejected by his parents. Made wretched as a teenager and with no memory of Clara, he’s driven to suicide. But as he prepares to end his life a melody comes into his head, inexplicably he feels able to face life again. Decades later, they are fated to meet and he becomes aware that his childhood was not all about rejection. Clara, now an old woman, sings to him a song from his childhood, the music that literally saved him.
The most memorable aspects of this album are the lyrics and the passion and compassion expressed in Martyn’s voice. I think I will enjoy these songs when I next hear him live, he can tell me the tale of Clara and it will just be him, the guitar and me.
Review by: Johnny Whalley
Songs for the Coming Home is released via Pipe Records on 22 Oct 2012. Order it via our store.
25 Oct 12 – DUNSTER, SOMERSET The Castle, 5 High Street, Dunster, Exmoor National Park, Somerset TA24 6SF
26 Oct 12 – PENRYN, CORNWALL Miss Peapods, Jubilee Wharfe, Commercial Rd, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 8FG
27 Oct 12 – EXETER Barnfield Theatre, Barnfield Rd, Exeter, Devon, EX1 1SN
28 Oct 12 – BIRMINGHAM Hare and Hounds, 106 High St, Kings Heath, Birmingham, B14 7JZ
30 Oct 12 – STROUD The Prince Albert, Rodborough Hill, Stroud, GL5 3SS
01 Nov 12 – WINDSOR Baptist Church, Victoria St, Windsor, SL4 1EH
03 Nov 12 – RUGBY Rugby Roots, Lawrence Sheriff School, Clifton Rd, Rugby, CV21 3AG
04 Nov 12 – DERBY Darwin Suite Assembly Rooms, Market Place, Derby DE1 3AH
05 Nov 12 – PORTMEIRION, NORTH WALES “The Portmeirion Sessions” Martyn and Show of Hands, The Village, Portmeirion, LL48 6ER
06 Nov 12 – LEEDS City Varieties, Swan Street, Leeds, LS1 6LW
07 Nov 12 – SHREWSBURY Theatre Severn, Frankwell Quay, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY3 8FT
09 Nov 12 – MILTON KEYNES The Stables, Stockwell Lane, Wavendon, Milton Keynes, MK17 78LU
10 Nov 12 – COLCHESTER Acoustic City, Headgate Theatre, Chapel St, Colchester CO2 7AT
11 Nov 12 – HAYWARDS HEATH Clair Hall, Perrymount Rd, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 3DN
12 Nov 12 – CARDIFF St Davids Hall, The Hayes, Cardiff, CF10 1AH
15 Nov 12 – LONDON Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regents Park Rd, London, NW1 7AY
16 Nov 12 – YSTRADGYNLAIS, SWANSEA Welfare Hall, Brecon Rd, Ystradgynlais, Swansea, Powys, SA9 1JJ
17 Nov 12 – TREORCHY Park and Dare Centenary Gala Fundraising Concert, Station Rd, Treorchy, RCT, CF42 6NL
19 Nov 12 – SOUTHSEA The Cellars at Eastney, 56 Cromwell Rd, Southsea, Portsmouth, Hants, PO4 9PN
22 Nov 12 – BRISTOL Colston Hall 2, Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5AR
23 Nov 12 – LIPHOOK Millennium Hall, 2 – 10 Ontario Way, Liphook, Hants, GU30 7LD
24 Nov 12 – ANDOVER The Lights, West Street, Andover, SP10 1AH
25 Nov 12 – CANTERBURY The Chapel, Canterbury Christ Church University, North Holmes Road, Canterbury, Kent CT1 1QU
27 Nov 12 – GREAT YARMOUTH St Georges Theatre, King Street, Great Yarmouth, NR30 2PG
29 Nov 12 – WORCESTER Huntingdon Hall. Crowngate, Worcester, WR1 3ED
30 Nov 12 – BURY The Met, Market Street, Bury, Gtr Manchester BL9 0BW
01 Dec 12 – GLASGOW Strathclyde Suite, Royal Concert Hall, 2 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow G2 3NY
02 Dec FRASERBURGH West Church, The Hexagon, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, AB43 9PJ
04 Dec 12 – CHESTER Telfords Warehouse, Tower Wharf, Chester, CH1 4EZ
07 Dec 12 – BARTON ON HUMBER The Ropewalk, Maltkiln Rd, Barton on Humber, N Lincs, DN18 5JT
08 Dec 12 – GATESHEAD The Sage, St Marys Sq, Gateshead Quays, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, NE8 2JR
09 Dec KENDAL, CUMBRIA The Box, Kendal College, Station Rd, Kendal, Cumbria