Absolute Distribution (label)
17 February 2014 (released)
16 January 2014
Durham born Martin Stephenson has had quite a musical journey, both sound wise and geographically. Moving from his home in the North-east to the Scottish highlands, where he now resides for some peace and quiet, and producing albums for more than 30 years. He is another of the UK's shockingly under-rated performers and songwriters and a glorious performance in the acoustic tent at Glastonbury last year testifies to his popularity - although chart success has never been achieved.
Remarkably, he has established a catalogue of more than 40 albums, although this is only the sixth studio release under the Daintees' banner. If you are familiar with his work, then the twist and turns that California Star takes, from the Robbie Robertson-esque opener The Ship to the 70s LA sunshine pop of the title track - won't come as a surprise. However if you are discovering Stephenson for the first time, it might take some getting used to the variety.
These musical tangents are underlined by (the dreaded) Wikipedia summary of his music, where the band is described as combining "rockabilly, show tunes, rootsy pop and straight ahead rock and punk". It sounds like Heston Blumenthal has got hold of a musical menu and given it his 'unique' take.
This unpredictability of sound should be embraced and encouraged though, as it is as far away as you can get from the formulaic world of the mainstream. Here, the bluesy-rock of Ready To Move On and the gentle harmonies of Silver Bird work wonderfully, and on Streets of Sebastian there is a fitting classy Spanish guitar, which is reminiscent of Joe Ely in his nineties prime. More than anything, Stephenson displays that music is not just for the young - and to the contrary, you can get better with age.