• Words Chris Farlie

Live Review!! Joe Martin / Two Ways Home - The Islington


An impromptu free gig from one of our favourite troubadours was enough to see #TEAMw21 head over to The Islington for an opportunity far too good to pass up. With an audience including another of our favourites Jake Morell and songwriter Sue McMillan this was always going to be a night that promised match as we caught up with the singer that we've not seen perform since his stunning early Sunday morning show at Buckle & Boots.

It's a strange thing to note but it is hard to recall the last time we saw Two Ways Home perform standing up!! They have become so inextricably linked to their monthly sojourn at the Round Up at the Colonel Fawcett where of course they perform seated. It does add a new dimension to their performing, Lewis's guitar playing seems all the more impressive while Isy is given the freedom to interpret the songs through an ever expressive array of hand gestures. They kicked off the evening with "2 Short Years", with Isy playing tambourine and Lewis on guitar and immediately there seemed to be a little additional energy that standing up perhaps gives. Moving on to "Take My Hand" where they truly duet, and with tambourine laid down the first chance for those aforementioned hand movements which also added to the charm of their performance.

There was a further outing for the song "Break The Silence" that was premiered last week, this time with the additional tit bit of information that it was co written with tonights headliner. It sounds as good as on that first hearing where on the first verse as Lewis sings his line, Isy overlaps her reply line, with the order being reversed on the second verse before they come together on the third. It makes for an impressive song both visually and aurally.

A rise in tempo came with "Closest Stranger" as well as an entertaining tale of coming across town in an extremely packed tube. A bit of Two Ways Home showmanship came into play for "Better Days", with the playing and singing both building up in volume as the song progressed. The familiar up beat closer of "Push and Pull" brought the first half of the evening to a close and the left the room well and truly warmed up, however there was no rest for two Ways Home as they hot footed it across town to play a second show of the night over in Holborn.

For Joe Martin, this was an all to rare London appearance, for one of the hottest writers on the Americana scene. There have been a couple of low key gigs but since that show at Buckle & Boots our main contact with him has been via the release of an excellent string of singles backed with Danny's "Champions Of The World". For tonight's show he will be backed on pedal steel by Henry Senior Jnr to fill out the overall sound.

It was one of those singles "Love Strong" that was to open the night, with Joe's voice on the chorus showing him to be in fine form. There was a revisiting of his debut EP for "Denver" revealed as being a blur of "fact and fiction". The thing that makes Joe's writing so different is his tendency to come at things from a slightly different angle, so his cheating song is a "kind of" cheating song, where the cheating happens in the persons mind while he is still with someone else! The song "More Than Just Your Loving ( keeping me awake)" saw some delicately played guitar and a sensitive performance that captured the dilemma of the songs protagonist.

A chance to up the volume came with his last single "Daddy Gene", the final moon landing seen through the eyes of a young girl to a suitably cracking tune. It was great to hear "Money For The Needy" again, almost cinematic in its scale as it takes an observation from real life of a roadside exchange between a beggar and the driver of an expensive car and takes on a "Trading Places" style journey that shows how easily "My job, my house, my kids my wife" can be taken away. It comes across as plausible and the character in the song is fully realised and believable. From there it was on to the next single, and one we here at #TEAMw21 have eagerly been awaiting, "Letters Of Regret" again taps into the universal feeling of wishing you'd done something differently - in this case, the relationship that never was, but it is told as a time spanning epic attached to an equally beautiful tune. In terms of songwriting craft, that run of three songs was really as good as it gets.

That run may indeed have been longer had it not been for lack of familiarity with the next song "Emilia". Played solo, this was another accomplished performance, with loud guitar playing matched by some extraordinary full on vocals on those final choruses, the like of which The Islington has rarely ever seen i'd guess. The only cover of the night came in the shape of a Kacey Musgraves song, Kacey at the moment flying high herself but this was a nod back to her earlier days where Joe had to stop the car, much as we at TEAMw21 did on hearing "Merry Go Round" for the first time - which seems an awful long time ago! One final new song "Crocodile Tears" closed the night, a more uptempo effort with Henry's pedal steel really shining through.

#JoeMartin #TwoWaysHome

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