Joe Martin / Alex Hart - The Green Note
With two artists having two new albums, the decision to tour together seemed a no brainer and so Alex Hart with a predominantly southern fan base and Joe Martin with a heavier following in the north combined forces for a joint tour - presumably London was something of a coin toss and it saw Joe going into bat first.
Having already toured the album once in a band format earlier in the year, this was to be a more intimate affair with Joe playing solo and flashing off his new finger picks. With #TEAMw21 settled in for the evening alongside fellow UK Americana artists Two Ways Home & Matt Hodges it was to be a great night.
The evening would start with "Denver" dedicated to someone in the audience who had travelled frpm the aforementioned city to be there tonight. This dates back to the very beginning of Joe's solo career - Joe tonight in his double denim outfit was able to breathe new life into the song, if anything it sounded better this evening than on it's initial release, somehow the delivery seemed more achingly tender.
There was a strong new song with a touch of social comment in the shape of "Coal Town" with telling lines like
"A skill was a job you had for your life".
It was refreshing to hear and the voice of the central character saying
"I ain't leaving this "Coal Town"" was also very moving even on first listen, Joe does have a sideline as a James Taylor cover artist so it was to be no surprise that his cover of "Fire & Rain" was spot on. An audience request gave a chance to somewhat let rip on "It Doesn't Rain In LA" - each visit to the chorus ever rising in volume..
One of Joe's greatest strengths as a songwriter is his unerring ability to create a compelling narrative, sometimes stretched out over a long period of time. Tonight's best example (although his repertoire has many ) is "Money For The Needy" from which every inch of believable drama was extracted. It may have been a work of fiction however for those 3 or 4 minutes the characters were so real you could almost touch them.
The two songs "Amelia" and "Smoking and Crying" come with a story that is as excellent as the songs themselves, the first with Joe extending out the name of the main character to great effect, while the second not written by Joe fits seamlessly in with his other work. The final song in this rich tapestry of sound was the title track of his album "Empty Passenger Seat" - the chorus requiring some effort to maintain the vocal over the stretched syllables of "seat" which got ever louder with each visit to the chorus. Quite possibly UK Americana's finest songsmith this set was an absolute delight.
As well as being geographically opposed, Joe and Alex also come from slightly different sides of the musical spectrum with Joe coming from the more Country, Americana side of the fence whereas Alex Hart having played with Seth Lakeman unsurprisingly approached with a more folky aspect to her playing. It left plenty of room for fans of one or the other to find some common ground.
Alex would open musing that the last time she played at the Green Note was as a fresh faced 18 year old before opening with "Give Yourself ( To Me)", she would add her own percussion via a foot pedal on the drum, stationed on the floor in front of her. It was an uptempo folky opener and Alex offered a a big smile as she finished. A second track from the new album came with "Blackbird" which came with some strident guitar playing.
Finding inspiration in her dog for "Losing You", Alex was able to turn challenging and traumatic events into a beautiful song, retelling the trials and tribulations, shaking her guitar occasionally to extract every single decibel of sound. It was back to the new album for the first single from it, "Fix This" - it came with an impassioned delivery on the chorus that saw Alex increase the volume of her delivery. Alex mentioned that it had gained a lot of traction on release and it was east to see why. There was further dog inspired material with "Tilly's Song", a delicate portrait perfectly painted with at times the gentlest of guitar refrains.
The title track of Alex's new album is called "Visions" - with a lot going on to decypher!
"I am your ride home tonight!"
A quick dip into the archives for "Bad Boy Bill From Brixham" written when she was 18. Packed with details of troubled lives and local landmarks, Alex teased us to guess if it was true or not - either way it held the attention as the story unfolded.
Alex's cover of the evening would be Neil Young's "Old Man from "Harvest" - Alex really opening up her vocals on the chorus to great effect on a highly impressive version.
The final song of the evening would be a tribute to David Attenborough - "Wild". with some prominent stomp throughout, this was a fine uptempo finale to a truly excellent evening.