If there’s any one musician to whom the term ‘unsung hero’ can be rightfully and unironically applied, it’s Beverley Martyn. Having started her musical career at the age of 16 with the jug band The Levee Breakers she was then chosen to launch Deram Records with her single Happy New Year, written by Randy Newman. During this period she was taught the guitar by Bert Jansch, who also encouraged her songwriting. She went on to contribute to the Simon & Garfunkel album Bookends before touring America with them, appearing at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.
In 1969 she met John Martyn, whom she later married. As a duo they issued two albums, Stormbringer! and The Road to Ruin. Although she was spending more time with her children, Beverley continued to contribute to John’s solo projects until the breakdown of their marriage.
At various times, Beverley has worked with Levon Helm, Jimmy Page, Dave Pegg, Richard Thompson, John Renbourn, Ralph McTell, Davy Graham, Sandy Denny and Loudon Wainwright III. The only downside to such an impressive track record of collaborations has been that her own solo career has had to take a backseat; apart from Stormbringer! and The Road to Ruin in 1970 (both jointly credited to John and Beverley Martyn) there’s really only been 1998’s No Frills album to show for a musical career spanning more than four decades.
Thankfully – at last! – that looks set to change with the forthcoming April release of The Phoenix and the Turtle, Beverley Martyn’s first solo album in too many years. Recorded in Wales with guitarist and producer Mark Pavey, it also features contributions from bass player Matt Malley (ex-Counting Crows) and drummer Victor Bisetti (ex-Los Lobos), electric guitars by Michael Watts and strings by Owain Roberts.
Described by Beverley as a very personal album, it features songs written throughout her entire career, from her very first song, Sweet Joy, to the previously unrecorded Nick Drake & Beverley Martyn song Reckless Jane which was started in 1974 when Drake lived nearby Beverley in Hampstead. Levee Breaks and Going To Germany are songs Beverley used to sing with The Levee Breakers, while another song, Women And Malt Whiskey is, in part, about John Martyn and other friends from the scene back then. The album “still has that in-a-room feel”, said Beverley recently, “it sounds like an old style analogue record”.
The Phoenix and the Turtle is released 21 April 2014
Pre-order the album (CD and vinyl) here: http://www.beverleymartyn.com/collections/all
Live: London’s Bush Hall on Tuesday 29 April
In support of the new album, Beverley and her full band will be playing at London’s Bush Hall on Tuesday 29 April. Tickets are £15.00 in advance; see her Facebook page for more info – link here https://www.facebook.com/events/344750915667397/ – or book tickets online directly via the Bush Hall website – link here http://www.bushhallmusic.co.uk/whats-on/events/29-apr-14-beverley-martyn-bush-hall/ (Box Office: 020 8222 6955)
It’ll undoubtedly be one of the must-see gigs of the year but if you can’t make it, never fear – you can be sure that FRUK will be there to bring you a review!
1. Reckless Jane
2. Potter’s Blues
3. Going To Germany
4. Sweet Joy
6. Levee Breaks
7. Women & Malt Whisky
8. Mountain Hop
9. Jesse James
Photo Credit: Alana Tyson