Del Mundo (label)
21 October 2019 (released)
21 October 2019
It isn’t often that I can sum up an album in one word but in this case ‘Sublime’ fits the bill.
Martin Harley is a British guitarist and songwriter and this is his first foray into electric Blues. He has been around a fair while and has attracted a strong following for his natural Blues playing and friendly on=stage demeanour. I have seen him a few times and the quality of his playing is wonderful coupled with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Blues and his warm and inviting voice.
This album sees him stretching out into other areas – still very much in the Blues but covering a good many different styles and forms, even into gospel and swing tracks.
The album was recorded, in analog, in a remote chapel in Pembrokeshire and for the first time he has recorded with other musicians. Harmonies and drums are handled by his co-producer Harry Harding while Rex Horan adds bass. Unexpectedly, he takes to the expanded format with ease and the three work together effortlessly.
The album opens with the title track, a delicious slice of slide Blues, gently funky and really catching a strong groove. For me, the sound is as if Ry Cooder was playing with Little Feat. The sense of soft funk and easy groove is just intoxicating and Jonny Henderson's Hammong makes the track fulsome and rich.
‘Marguerite’ follows, a love song of sorts, staying low key and gentle but sweetly intense. Harley’s guitar is gorgeous but his voice is the best thing about the song – conversational and gently pleading.
‘If Tears Were Pennies’ is a brilliant mood piece, ringing guitar lines and a simple tom tom pattern suddenly explode into furious rock tinged swamp Blues while his howled vocals tear into your soul. All the hallmarks of a great psych sound and far more noise than I ever would have thought him capable.
My favourite piece is ‘Clarbeston Resonation’, a solo piece on a resonator guitar and using the whole of the chapel’s acoustic to create and unutterably intense strike straight to the heart – sheer magic.
He controls the mood and the and the pace so that you are never lulled into treating the music as sheer background. Every track has a different sound and feel but they all bear the signature of ‘that’ voice and stirring guitar play whether it is electric, acoustic of slide.
Having seen Martin Harley live a couple of times and seeing him with Daniel Kimbro I thought I was well versed in Martin Harley’s talents but this goes a magnitude of steps further, well worth all five stars and if I could give it 6 I would.