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  • Writer's pictureCHRIS FARLIE

Joe Martin - Bound For Lonesome

HIghlighted by us as one of the "Must Sees" at Buckle & Boots, Joe Martin has an EP out in readiness for the festival and for some preceding dates. It includes 2 previously released singles ( Heartbreak Cult & Doesn't Rain In LA ) and the addition of three new songs. The CD version of this EP is an essential artefact to get hold of, coming in a lovely gatefold sleeve, with it's own booklet as well.

Assisted by the Chorlton Country Club, the wonderful pedal steel playing of CJ Hillman and also Lauren Housely on backing vocals, the results are certainly superior. producing an EP that has a timeless feel to it that probably could have been released at any time over the previous 50 years and not looked out of place.

Grouping the songs together under the title "Bound For Lonesome" gives an indication of the theme that runs through the songs, the picture of Joe on the cover, where he cuts a forlorn figure in an empty room apart from his trusty typewriter which houses his latest creation, is one of someone pondering happier times.

It seems hard to believe as so much as happened in between but "Heartbreak Cult" is nearing its first birthday, released at the end of July 2020, however the opening lines still have the ability to grab the listeners attention

"She turned my vinyl into ashtrays, she don't even smoke, an expensive way to play an impractical joke

An unhealthy does of reality to bring me back down, from my high horse that I'd been riding around"

The picture painted is of someone extremely annoyed if not a little bit psychotic, however it turns out that her actions are the result of a break up that she is not taking well and not willing to discuss.

"She don't wanna talk like a rational adult"

Our sympathies have been leaning in Joe's direction however, the next couplet somewhat paints a different picture by the time it closes, with the whole song slowing down with that realisation.

"What am I to do when she is worshipping her deity of misery?

Confusing the truth , the problem doesn't lie with her, it lies with me"

Driven by gentlest of drumming and the sweetest guitar work and backing vocals this song set the tone for the EP

"Doesn't Rain In LA" stands out as being Joe's noisiest track since his days with Fitzwallace. It gives him a chance to really let rip on the vocals. This time round it is Joe playing the one left behind while he watches someone he cares for roll the dice in the search for stardom, seemingly unable to reveal his true feelings

"She's a flower not quite ready to bloom

She needs water to lay down her roots

It's not my place to say

It doesn't rain in LA"

Joe's fairly dismissive of her chances of making it big "there's too many stars" as it is" however when it comes to the moment to put his heart on the line, he is unable to express his true feelings

"and if you need another reason to stay, I've heard it doesn't rain in LA"

It is great to hear hear Joe front a truly rocking band and yet still be able to create an atmosphere by simply changing the tone of his delivery.

The new songs continue the high quality of songwriting, "Forgotten Country Song" is an absolute gem, very cinematic as Joe plays with time throughout the track, where a happy memory can segue into a sad reality, all of this channelled through the device of the "country song".

There's almost an unconscious nod to John Denver in the opening lines, is this country road where he belongs?

"It looks like another long dirt road

But this one here it takes me home"

Any thoughts of this being a happy trip home though are soon dispelled, for if this is the place where he belongs then it is quite bleak.

"Though I know you won't be waiting there

You're gone for good and I don't know where".

The happiness of their first meeting, is recalled, littered with little anecdotes however it is quickly replaced by the stark reality of the present, of a man trying to recapture the magic now lost.

"Some times I go back to that town, retrace the steps where I held your hand

Go to the bar where we first danced, and that country song where I became your man"

Similarly reflections on them moving into their first house are soon brought back in sharp focus,

"That old house has since disappeared - and all of the memories made in it

You said you always wanted kids, and you'd teach them country songs to sing"

The sadness of his falling is never more beautifully framed than when Joe softly sings

"Some nights I end up talking to, a faded photograph of you

A happy ending is where we don't belong like all those heartbreak country songs"

While it is Joe's acoustic guitar that is most prominent, the ensemble gradually build up the sound with Dan's atmospheric percussion and CJ Hillmans achingly beautiful pedal steel

"More Than Just Your Loving" is simply another great bit of writing with Joe finding himself in something of a quandary, he's with someone but his heart lies elsewhere.

"I ain't exactly been unfaithful, it wouldn't be a lie to say

There's more than just your loving keeping me awake"

With a sumptuous sound, this really pulls at the heart strings, CJ Hillmans Pedal steel almost cries out while the drums and acoustic guitar are hushed. Things reach something of a crux at the bridge where the dilemma on his mind is played out, not for the first time.

"But I know i need to tell ya

Then I'll show myself the door

I'll let you sleep until the morning

Like I done too many times before"

Joe's vocals capture the confused mood perfectly, partly dreaming of whom he could be with, while knowing the pain that this will cause once he sets things in motion. It closes with a marvelously sustained final "awake" .

"Take Me Home Tonight" has a soulful sound created by the wonderful organ sound and clipped electric guitar, it is something we've not heard from Joe before, and if sound wise it seems slightly out of kilter with the rest of the EP, lyric wise it most certainly is not. It is a bar room encounter and finds Joe at a low ebb

"I'm feeling lonely and I need somebody"

The whole temporary disposable nature of the relationship is reflected in the lyrics, no words are set aside for the person sat opposite apart from the backhanded compliment that "You look beautiful through all this alcohol", just some for the "Little piece of heaven" they will later create.

Joe's vocals almost have a level of distaste for what is happening, while the backing gives it a suitably sultry atmosphere. There is no denying the regret in the lines

"It ain't like me to take love easily and abuse a heart this way" but the need to feel "a little more alive" is overwhelming.

It all fits in well with the overall running theme of characters for whatever reason finding themselves or about to find themselves in a solitary way of life. Well conceived and executed and destined to be among the best of 2021.




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