Del Mundo (label)
25 September 2015 (released)
30 September 2015
Any album that starts with perfectly played and shimmering note on a metal bodied guitar closely followed by a softly drawn bowed drone on the double bass is going to get my attention and it just gets better from there.
Martin Harley is English although you wouldn't think so from his vocals – and Daniel Kimbro hails from Knoxville Tennessee. Together they play roots and Blues with an incredibly deft and subtle touch and this album, recorded at the Southern Ground in Nashville, oozes quality and trust in each others playing.
Kimbro's upright bass creates a dense backing to Harley's playing – on Weisenborn, resonators and archtops – while together their harmonising fits the chosen music perfectly.
Harley says “It's a simple, honest and direct album with no overdubs in a warm sounding room with some great microphones and two new friends playing a few songs over a cold beer or two.
“There's a great feeling when you click with someone. It frees you up to experiment with the arrangement and the dynamic of a song.”
You can clearly hear the effect that the room has, producing a sweet-toned sound and allowing the vocals to separate from the accompaniment but the best thing about this album is the closeness of the two musicians and the way they almost seem to be testing each other.
Harley's guitar playing is super, picking his way around the resonators and slide on the Weissenborn, and when the pace of the music picks up his fluid style sometimes leave the listener breathless.
The pair play with form as well as testing each other – 'Goodnight Irene' gets a totally different style to any way I've heard it before, deeply country but with a dark melancholy at its heart, it makes you re-evaluate the song and see the sense of loss in the lyrics. Tom Waits 'Chocolate Jesus' sees Harley winding up his slide and putting a strong rhythmic slant on the song.
Harley's own songs get a strong airing with 'Cardboard King' and 'Money Don't Matter' standouts but for me the best number here is a classic Blues, 'Nobody's Fault But Mine' which its writer – Blind Willy Johnson – would be proud of.
From the first note to the last, this is a gorgeous album, played beautifully and with some real respect between the players.