Joe Martin Band / Katy Hurt - The Half Moon Putney
A thrilling evening at The Half Moon, Putney, provided the chance to check in with a couple of artists both launching or about to launch their debut albums. Joe Martin's "Empty Passenger Seat" is already out and it will hopefully also shortly be followed by Katy Hurt's debut platter.
It would be Katy who was genuinely hurt with her left arm in a supporting brace, who would open the evening with her long time guitarist and co writer Gab Zsapka on guitar duties. With no guitar to play it did leave Katy free to use her hands to emphasise the lyrics as she sung "Sounds Good In A Bar".
Taking things a little more upbeat was "The Kiss" which saw Katy move to hand holding her microphone and then walking the stage. With Gab providing backing vocals filling out the overall sound, it all ended with Katy providing a huge theatrical kiss.
There was a chance to air the recent single "Wish I Could Give You Up" before one of the stand out moments of the set, "Face To Face" occurred, which saw Katy transform from country singer to "Forces Sweetheart". The guitar sound was delicate and Katy's vocals were marvelously restrained and perfect for the occasion - although it is totally retro and could have easily have come from the 40's - Katy's knowing coda cleverly plays on the modern meanings of the words "Tweet" and "Zoom" just to make sure that we know that she's still with us in the 2020's!
The acoustic format probably did not ideally suit "Revved Up" as it is not easy extracting a grungy ZZ Top style guitar sound from an acoustic but Gab gave it a fair go and Katy accordingly revved up her vocals to fill in any shortfall.
The short set would close with "What Have You Got To Lose?", Katy's excellent new single - a song that has been awaiting release since 2020. It perfectly fitted the stripped down sound and Katy's vocal were both wonderfully expressive and when required, blisteringly powerful - definitely the best saved till last in a highly entertaining set.
For much of the last five years or so, most of Joe Martin's appearances have been as a solo performer so it was great to once again see him get the chance to make a little noise on stage. Opening with "It Doesn't Rain In LA" he almost teased the audience a little longer as it was mainly just a solo performance still - even for the chorus which saw Joe raise the volume with the "She's on fire" line.
It is as the second verse commences that the band kicks in and we get closer to the sound of the original single. The band are seasoned professionals their contributions perfectly adding to the overall sound with sometimes the most understated of additions.
The band come into their own on "High Gravity" with a lovely jangly guitar sound and propelled along with some unfussy drumming. It all leaves Joe free to concentrate on his singing about the perils of drinking strong beer. With a new album to promote this was to be a night of old favourites along with first outings for some newer ones. One such new one was "Born To Die Young", the chorus delivered almost as separate statements on this tale of a doomed individual. Joe's vocals were full of drama, while the guitar just punctured the overall sound with little flourishes that added to the overall atmosphere.
There was a strange feeling of deja vu on the next song "I Want You To Stay", a song co-written with Gary Quinn and Lisa T, for the last time we heard it was at Buckle & Boots being sung by Mr Quinn himself - it was marvelous then and was no less superb tonight. It came with a classic country backing and smouldered with sexual tension that is left hanging there. The first cover of the night came with a nice revisit to the underplayed Lindisfarne classic "Run For Home" with its singalong chorus. The song "Full Time Dreamer" about an aspiring waitress wishing to be a singer was classic Joe Martin writing, with a vivid believable narrative matched to great singing and playing - Joe shaking his guitar at times to extract every last decibel of sound.
The next section was an exemplary piece of stagecraft with a true story stretched over 2 songs - the first "Amelia" originally conceived for inclusion in the Nashville TV series where one imagines it would have nestled nicely. The second half of the story would see the band disappear and Katy Hurt reappear for "Smoking and Crying". Their voices perfectly entwining to provide another stand out moment of the night - the narrative linking the songs together was a masterpiece in itself - one that Katy would add to with her own freaky supplement.
The solo section would continue for one further song "Money For The Needy" which #TEAMw21 remember first hearing along with another ( sadly not played tonight ) Joe Martin classic "Letters Of Regret". Both songs are conceived and delivered over a span of time where the central character is followed through life changing events. In "Money For The Needy" - Joe even goes into the character for a short moment - playing the central character eschewing a free drink in a bar
"I said I keep my pride you can keep you pity
Cos I ain't broke - and I'm no charity"
The closing straight would see the band return for a run through of Joe's most recent singles - the title track of the new album "Empty Passenger Seat" which comes with a lung busting chorus and the uptempo Eagle ish country sound of "Crocodile Tears"
The encore would see the reappearance of Joe, the band and Katy Hurt for a run through of James Taylor's "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You".
It was the perfect end to a perfect night with two of the best talents that UK Americana has to offer, who both deserve great things and support with their debut albums.