UK Blues Award winner, including three years running as Acoustic Blues Artist, Dom Martin hails from across the Irish Sea, and you’ll find several references to him being the emerald isle’s biggest blues export since the late Rory Gallagher.
That’s a long yardstick to be measured by, and to be truthful, if his new album, A Savage Life, is any indication, his place of origin, and a fondness for the acoustic as much as the electric guitar, are the only real similarities.
Opening track ‘Unsatisfied’ is a neat enough introduction, fitting snuggly into that rugged and raw dirty old school blues rock approach. By way of contrast, ‘Here Comes The River’, with its gentle electric guitar chord sequence calls to mind Paul Kossoff’s early work, Martin’s soft-deep sighing voice is more effective here too, as too the melody notes and solos played; the song being imbued with a fragile beauty that refuses to be rushed.
Admirably similar in intent if not approach, with a more general blues rock approach is ‘Blues On The Bay’, a song reflecting on times gone by. The track features a fuller band sound, albeit only bass guitarist Dave Thompson and drummer Laurence McKeown are the only other accompanists on the album. While Martin himself maybe in reminiscent mode, continuing with ‘The Man From Nowhere’ I too find myself thinking back nostalgically to children’s stop-motion TV puppet shows like Camberwick Green and Trumpton. Not what I would have thought the guitarist had in mind for this acoustic rag, but it certainly brough a smile to my face listening to it.
Next up, ‘12 Gauge’ is sure-fire Gallagher-style riffing meets ZZ Top boogie stomping. There’s some rather nice slide that’s powerful and subtle in pretty much equal measures with a Tony McPhee (of Groundhogs fame) meets John Martyn growling vocal over the top – In fact, in playing back the tracks again, I found ever more similarities to the late Scottish singer/guitarist, both vocally and in certain six string approaches. Most notably, the Celtic-touched ‘Echoes’, a song about familial loss; here his voice, pitched deep, comes across particularly like Martyn’s, while with this finger-picked acoustic number it’s the spaces between that are as important as the notes played.
‘Drink In Blue Colours’ is late-night tipsy jazz-tinted blues, Higher whoops and deep mumbling lyrics imbue, if not imbibe, the song prior to it walking a straight-line, eyes closed with a vintage Bluesbreakers’ styled Clapton solo that cuts short just as you wait for it to ignite further, falling back into its tripped-out jazzier opening with a more Cream-derived solo.
Continuing the theme of partaking of too much, while also following an electric number with an acoustic, is the folk rag tune that is ‘Addict’. Then the pace changes with instrumental that is ‘Maxwell Shuffle’ – It’s bright and breezy blues rock, with a number of lines that call to mind other tunes and artists, from Freddy King’s ‘Hideaway’ on, but taking in aspects of Hendrix, Gallagher, Clapton and Alvin Lee too, the whole piece proving headshakingly entertaining.
‘The Parting Glass’ is a mournful Scottish lament, apparently from “around the 1760s”, and often played at wakes. Once more, I’m sorry for mentioning a near namesake, but I’m sure John Martyn is looking down from his fluffy white cloud with raised eyebrows in mock surprise while wearing a beaming smile at Dom Martin’s performance here.
The acoustic numbers on this album work best for me, he doesn’t get over-flashy in his playing, but his approach is uniquely appropriate for those particular songs, and you can see why he’s received those UK Blues Awards. Dom Martin is an artist whose body of work I intend to delve into a lot more.
Dom Martin – A Savage Life is available by clicking here.