Midwinterfest Preview 1: Joe Martin - Small World EP
2018 will not be the first visit to Torquay for Joe Martin, in 2016 he was the leading light behind Leeds based Fitzwallace purveyors of superior country music, with a blistering live sound and huge set pieces like "Treading Water". Although the band were to return the following year Joe had amicably departed to head off in a new direction.
This January he will be returning to play "In the Round" with Steve Black and Hattie Briggs for what already looks like being one of the many highlights on a top quality bill.
In the meantime he has spent his time in Nashville honing his skills, playing at the legendary Bluebird Cafe as well as tracking down one of his heroes John Paul White of the Civil Wars to Alabama. His first EP "Small World" is reviewed below and his latest single "Better Than Today" is available now. Having recently seen him live at Gails Kitchen this promises to be something special and if you ask nicely hopefully he'll play "Letters Of Regret", a song that #TEAMW21 firmly believe will be one of the songs of 2018!
The first things you notice about the "Small World" EP are the striking cover, of Joe alone, in an armchair, the only furniture in what looks to be an empty warehouse. The inner cover an oyster with what seems to be a small pearl but is actually a picture of the world needs no explaining while the actual CD itself also has a glorious picture of the earth on it.
This EP was released earlier in the year, as an introduction to the new songs that Joe had been working on. Primarily just Joe and an acoustic guitar, although there is some delicious pedal steel provided by Henry Senior who more often is seen with Danny & The Champions Of The World, and some thoughtful double bass from Andy Leggett. There is a distinct melancholic mood to this collection of songs but it is one that rewards the listener with repeated plays as little elements slowly reveal themselves.
The EP opens with "Silent Vow" with just Joe playing an acoustic guitar, and things seemingly start well, the singer has his girl, who is the love of his life. Soon though things have gone downhill as he reflects back to their final meeting - a key moment of the relationship as she has packed her cases and leaves with the words "I'll be alright, you'll be just fine". However years down the line, the photos are gone but the memories of her "ring and a strand of your hair" still evoke the feeling of her. It's an introduction to the new sound which in itself harks back to a golden age of singers but without ever feeling retro.
The second track "Denver" is one of the three tracks where all three musicians come together, to great effect, especially that pedal steel, as Joe details various places in the US that he can no longer return to because of "painful memories of her". After licking his wounds in San Francisco he heads off on a Greyhound bus where he'll "ride, with no companion by my side" not knowing where the bus is going.
"Killing Me Slowly" is not a typo it is another relationship in trouble in truth it's an on / off affair where she'd s say she "didn't want this anymore" and then another time she'll call to say "We ain't done just yet" only to repeat the process giving the endless ebbing loop of the title. There's some proper singing throughout this song as he sings " I thought that I could handle a girl like you but I can't". In a final twist she sticks the knife in further by saying she's moving on to someone who won't just give in to all her needs but he knows she's lying leaving him to cry "I want out of this somehow".
The EP closes with "Who You Really Are" with the pedal steel virtually sobbing at times as another relationship disintegrates "the longer that I am with you the less that I know who you really are" -
In his Fitzwallace days Joe was very much associated with the big swirling epics and you can't help but feel that at some point that is what this track will become as the pain of the singer is etched into every line.
If you take away three things from this EP, it is the superior turn of phrase used in many of the songs, how much atmosphere can be generated by just three instruments and the joy of hearing someone truly singing their heart out. You can't ask for more than that.
MidwinterFest runs January 12th - 14th 2018
For Booking Details https://www.neo-music.net/mwf-2017-bf