Martyn Joseph honoured on both sides of the Atlantic

Martyn Joseph

Not just ‘one of acoustic music’s most original voices’, but also one of its most active humanitarians, acclaimed Welsh singer songwriter Martyn Joseph has received a top honour at the International Folk Music Awards in the USA.

Martyn was presented with a Spirit of Folk Award at the Folk Alliance International convention at the Folly Theatre in Kansas. These coveted awards are presented ‘to honour and celebrate people actively involved in the promotion and preservation of folk music through their creative work, their community building, and their demonstrated leadership’.

Known for his astute and powerful songs of compassion and one of the finest live acts on the circuit, Martyn has become a celebrated artist on both sides of the Atlantic over his 33-year career and aptly been dubbed “The Welsh Springsteen”.

Five years ago Martyn met his wife Justine Ferland at Folk Alliance and together they developed the UK charity Let Yourself Trust which has been actively involved in combatting social injustice, supporting myriad grassroots projects all over the world from helping rebuild a demolished family home in Palestine to leading a 25-strong team in the creation of a music centre in a Guatemalan children’s village and getting involved in Advantage Africa’s Albinism project in Uganda.

Accepting his award from Folk Alliance International’s Barbara Manners, Martyn said he was humbled: “These are strange days and we need good songs to remind us of who we really are. The real danger is cynicism and fear. We are a big army and we should be making a hell of a noise right now and I’m proud to be part of that rumble”.

Let Yourself Trust, whose patron is broadcaster Bob Harris OBE, has raised some £250,000 since its inception with recent projects including helping to clean a mercury poisoned river on a Canadian reserve, aiding the homeless at a Swansea refuge, supporting a teenage mental health project in Boston, USA and backing a mobile school initiative which provides education for street children in 25 countries. http://letyourself.net/

Meanwhile back in the UK Martyn was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award by FATEA Magazine in their annual folk awards. FATEA’s Neil King said:

“Martyn Joseph has done more than create great music for a long period; it’s about the way he uses music and the recognition built up to put back into the wider community, focusing his attention towards trade justice, third world debt cancellation and human rights.”

Just after receiving the award Martyn played the famous Half Moon, Putney and was joined on stage by friend and Welsh actor/comedian Rob Brydon to sing Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’.

Two years ago, Joseph was also nominated at the AIM Independent Music Awards in London – in the closely contested category of Hardest Working Band or Artist whilst he has also been recognised with an Amnesty International Award for his support of Brazil’s MST Landless Workers’ Movement.

A previous winner of the Best Male Artist title in the BBC Welsh Music Awards, Joseph’s story (over three decades of performance, five Top 50 hits, half a million album sales and 32 album releases) continues to grow and connect with audiences everywhere.

An exceptional singer songwriter and guitarist, Joseph, who was invited by the English Folk Dance & Song Society’s (EFDSS) to write and take part in the Parliament-instigated democracy-celebrating project Sweet Liberties, has recently started recording his 33rd album which will be produced by in demand Gerry Diver and released next autumn.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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Artist’s website: http://www.martynjoseph.net/

SWEET LIBERTIES – Sweet Liberties (Quercus QRCD002)

Sweet LibertiesSweet Liberties, originally a commission by the EFDSS and Folk at the Oak, in partnership with the House of Commons, to mark the 2015: Anniversaries: Parliament in the Making, this has now expanded to become a 14-track album featuring a varied line up of folk musicians in celebration of 800 years in the pursuit of democracy.

Some of the names will be familiar, others less so, but all contribute thoughtful and relevant songs touching on various aspects of the overall topic. I am assuming that everyone listed in the credits (which includes Nancy Kerr and Patsy Reid on violin, Nick Cooke on melodeon) played on all (or most) of the songs, the writers themselves handling the vocals, perhaps the best known being Martyn Joseph who contributes three of his own numbers, the first, featuring fingerpicked guitar and violin, a revisiting of ‘Dic Penderyn’ from his Evolved album, the story of the 1831 Merthyr Riots and the man hung for a crime he could not have committed. The second, a duet with Sam Carter, is also one from the back catalogue, ‘Twelve Years Old’, from Songs For The Coming Home, inspired by the 1833 Factory Act and framed as a conversation between two children a hundred years apart. His third, ‘Nye’, is a new song written for the project, a fingerpicked, violin-accompanied tribute to those who work in the NHS and to its founder, fellow Welshman, Aneurin Bevan.

The album opens with ‘Kingdom’, the first of four songs by 2015’s BBC Folk Singer of the Year, Nancy Kerr, a traditional styled solo acoustic number that takes Magna Carta as a springboard to address the ownership and management of land for profit and the subsequent loss of habitat. Coloured by violin, ‘Seven Notes’ is another traditional framed track, one which uses the image of the migrating cuckoo as a poetic metaphor for colonialist history, setting it in an experiment in musical patterns to represent multicultural Britain.

Rather more jaunty, the waltzing, melodeon-led Music Hall-like ‘Lila’ (the only song not to also feature on her new Instar album) connects the suffragette movement with the abolition of slavery through its twin subjects, Adelaide-born Muriel Lila Matters, who took to a hot air balloon to scatter Votes for Women leaflets over Parliament, and Mary Prince, an eighteenth century Bermudian whose autobiography offered a narrative of slavery. Her fourth contribution, the spare, melodeon, violin and guitar accompanied ‘Written On My Skin’, again draws on metaphor and nature imagery (here a hunted fox) on a song in memory of women forced to resort to the Human Rights Act to have their sexual assault cases justly tried.

A relatively new voice on the British contemporary folk scene, Maz O’Connor also has four credits, all new recordings, kicking off with the violin-backed ‘Rich Man’s Hill’ which, inspired by the 1601 Poor Law and concerning the widening gap between the haves and have nots,, tells of a homeless man in London who believes that, if he works hard enough, he too can get himself a mansion. The one track to address democracy directly, ‘This Old House’ (a nod the Palace of Westminster) is a playful take on democracy and compromise framed in the context of a couple redecorating and patching up their shared house, pizzicato violin driving along the chorus.

Featuring nimble fingerpicked guitar and violin, ‘Broad Waters’, as the title suggests, concerns the 1985 killing of PC Keith Blakelock on the Broadwater Farm estate and the subsequent police fitting up of three innocent men for his murder, and is set as a dialogue between a police officer pressuring a young boy into testifying against Winston Silcott. Her last track, backed by just acoustic guitar, the plaintive ‘Broken Things’, also concerns social justice, here, borrowing the opening of Wilfred Owen’s Anthem For Doomed Youth, a lament for the decline of the trade union movement, focusing on the Miners’ Strikes of 1984 and, in particular, the death of David Jones during violence on a picket line.

Which leaves Sam Carter who, like Joseph, provides three numbers. Echoing Kerr, ‘Am I Not A Man?’ also addresses slavery a waltzing number inspired by freed slaves organisation Sons of Africa whose campaigning contributed to the Abolition of Slavery Act, drawing for its details on the slave autobiography Interesting Narrative Of The Life Of Olaudah Equiano.

His two other songs come at the back end of the album, the first being the lurching cabaret-styled ‘Dark Days’, a straightforward state of the nation comment with gyspy violin accompaniment, proceedings closing with the folksy salvationist hymn ‘One More River’, a return to the theme of slavery that sounds a personal note in that his great great aunt married the son of a fugitive Virginian slave, sun in his voice as he contemplates fleeing to England, ending in an unaccompanied chorus by Carter and, presumably, his three female associates.

Featuring none of the bombast or flagwaving that would likely characterise an American equivalent, this is both a damn fine album and a salient reminder of the liberties we so often fail to hold dear.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

‘John Ball’ live at the launch event:

Martyn Joseph nominated as hardest working artist

Martyn Joseph 2016

Welsh singer songwriter Martyn Joseph, “one of acoustic music’s most original voices”, had the honour of being nominated at the AIM Independent Music Awards at The Brewery in London this week – in the closely contested category of Hardest Working Band or Artist.

Known for his astute songs of compassion, and as one of the finest live acts on the circuit, Martyn was the sole representative of the folk roots scene at the Awards ceremony, facing strong competition from artists from the R ‘n’ B, rap and indie worlds. The award was clinched by singer songwriter Darren Hayman but Martyn was proud to be a flag bearer for the tradition.

“It was an honour to be the voice of folk within the wide cacophony of so many other musical genres and among some incredible artists. It was a fantastic night for independent music.”

Adele, Stormzy, Roisin Murphy and Slade were among the night’s winners.

It’s not hard to see why Martyn earned the nomination, having played over 140 shows and Festivals across the UK, Canada, USA & Europe in the last year including his own event PipeFest. He’s released two albums (Sanctuary and Sanctuary Acoustic) and taken part in the English Folk Dance & Song Society (EFDSS) Sweet Liberties project, as well as developing his own UK based charity, Let Yourself Trust, which has been supporting grassroots projects in Palestine, Guatemala, Uganda, Canada & the UK.

Long known for his humanitarian work, in the past 12 months he has travelled to Palestine with volunteers to help rebuild a demolished family home and to Guatemala, leading a 25-strong team in the building of a music centre for a Children’s Village. Last year also saw him playing a show in Swansea homeless shelter Zac’s Place with Bob Harris OBE (patron of Let Yourself Trust) to celebrate raising £16,000 for their work in the first half of 2015. At the start of 2016 he presented a Let Yourself Trust cheque for £18,000 to the charity Advantage Africa and last September he ran his first 10k race to raise further funds.

A previous winner of the Best Male Artist title in the BBC Welsh Music Awards, Joseph’s story (three decades of performance, half a million album sales and 32 album releases) continues to grow and connect on both sides of the Atlantic.

He will shortly embark on a tour of USA and Canada before returning for a UK tour in November/December.

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the Martyn Joseph link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.martynjoseph.net

‘I Searched For You’ – official video:

MARTYN JOSEPH’S GLOBAL LET YOURSELF TRUST RAISES NEARLY £50,000 IN FIRST YEAR

Children’s projects in Palestine and Guatemala are first beneficiaries

LYT now turns its attentions to a Swansea charity

 

MJ and kids

The charitable trust launched by popular Welsh singer songwriter Martyn Joseph, has raised nearly £50,000 in its first year.

Cardiff-based Joseph last year fulfilled a long-held ambition to launch his own trust to benefit both global charities and grass roots “people” projects in the UK and beyond with legendary broadcaster Bob Harris becoming patron.

A gifted guitar player with a juggernaut voice, Joseph’s performances have taken him from arts centres in his native Wales to a 5,000 strong crowd at the Royal Albert Hall.

But in a career spanning three decades with sales of over a quarter of a million albums, Joseph has perhaps become as well known for his worldwide humanitarian work as for his powerful performances and high level connectivity with audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

Named after one of his recent songs on the Songs for the Coming Home album, the Let Yourself Trust launched in the UK last June with three special fundraising performances over one weekend in Cardiff (Norwegian Church) Milton Keynes (The Stables) and Lancaster (Ashton Memorial). To mark the launch Martyn released an 11-track album Kiss the World Beautiful – Songs for the Let Yourself Trust with fresh recordings of some of his most affecting political and social justice songs and a striking new song Luxury of Despair, inspired by his recent visits to refugee camps.

Setting out to “provide a choice and a chance” Let Yourself Trust aims to support lesser known projects each year for a six month period, highlighting their work to a wider audience through Martyn’s gigs and social networks.

A fearless songwriter, long dubbed “The Welsh Springsteen”, he has campaigned both in person and in song for countless causes, focusing on trade justice, third world debt cancellation and human rights. His high impact songs range from a first person narrative from the perspective of a Kosovo refugee (‘The Good In Me Is Dead’) to ‘Five Sisters’, recounting the fate of siblings killed in an Israeli attack.

Martyn received an Amnesty International accolade for his work with the Brazilian Landless Workers’ Movement MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra) back in 2002 and released The Great American Novel EP in the wake of the 2003 invasion of Iraq with all proceeds benefitting War Child. Since then he has worked alongside or taken on the patronage of several international agencies and organisations, from Advantage Africa to Casa Alianza, which helps street children in Central America. World Vision, Canada’s The Stephen Lewis Foundation and Christian Aid are among other organisations to which he has turned his attention.

But it was a 2013 trip to Bethlehem for the Bet Lahem festival and in particular a visit to a children’s theatre project at a Palestinian refugee camp that triggered the formation of the Let Yourself Trust.

“My trip to the Middle East galvanised my thoughts on something I’d been thinking about for the last five years. I’d always been proud and privileged to lend my support to many causes during the length of my career – but I wanted to do something more and set up a visible platform alongside the music. Somewhere in the heat and dust of a Palestinian refugee camp I decided it was time to set up my own charitable trust to help fund projects at home and abroad that are making a difference in their communities.”

That led to the Alroward Cultural and Theatre Society in Bethlehem’s Aida Refugee Camp becoming the first funding project and the $10,000 money LYT raised through concerts and generous donations helped deliver a range of creative tools from musical instruments to digital cameras, books and paint brushes to the Alroward Children Arts Theatre.

Martyn and LYT Executive Director Justine Ferland (centre) with Heather and Greg Knox and the Project Somos children
Martyn and LYT Executive Director Justine Ferland (centre) with Heather and Greg Knox and the Project Somos children

In the second half of 2014 LYT turned its attentions to Guatemala’s Project Somos Children’s Village. Martyn met Project Somos’ founders (Heather and Greg Knox) at the Vancouver Folk Festival 15 years ago and has since supported their vision to set up a home for single mothers and their children suffering extreme poverty and the nurturing of their futures.

Martyn visited Project Somos at the start of 2015 to present a LYT cheque for $32,000 and performed a private concert for the village’s mothers, children and staff- the first they had experienced. Says Project Somos’ Executive Director Heather Knox:

“Martyn is obviously able to impart our vision to others while on stage and we are deeply moved. This will really support us moving forward”.

The organisation will use part of the donation to complete a guest facility for volunteers and visitors and help with the initial costs of receiving their next two families.

Martyn will return in 2016 with a group of volunteers to help build a music and arts room as part of a school being constructed on the site. It would become the only such facility for many miles around.

But now the Trust is focusing on a project closer to home with fundraising underway for  Zac’s Place – a homeless shelter in Swansea described as “ a safe haven for some of Swansea’s most alienated people”, run by Sean Stillman, who founded it 15 years ago. Vital to the Swansea community it provides over 2,000 meals a year, health care and a night shelter for 12 people, functioning on just £8,000 a year. Between now and June Martyn will be aiming to raise awareness of Zac’s Place in a bid to provide a year’s funding.

Says Sean :“The connection between the music of Martyn Joseph and the community of Zac’s Place not only goes back several years but shares many of the same questions, fears, hopes and dreams. We are delighted to share this partnership with LYT.”

Read more at http://letyourself.net/zacs-place

Summing up Let Yourself Trust’s first year Joseph says:

“I’ve been amazed by the wonderful support we have received. Then results are stunning and I can’t begin to thank people enough. The visit to Project Somos showed us first-hand how Let Yourself Trust can make a difference. Now, in Zac’s Place, we couldn’t have found a more worthwhile UK-based project to support and I’m looking forward to helping their transforming work with the homeless in the same way we have helped those in Palestine and Guatemala.”

See Martyn’s introduction to the Let Yourself Trust and Bob Harris’s personal message at www.letyourself.net

Live Review – Martyn Joseph supported by Luke Jackson, Rugby Roots 3rd November 2012…

A captivating night all round at Martyns 10th visit to Rugby Roots at the Lawrence Sheriff School on his tour to promote his new album Songs For the Coming Home .

This was 3 hours of first class acoustic music from two gifted performers, one sorcerer at the peak of his game (wearing a suit for the occasion, I should add) and one rapidly rising apprentice, and quite honestly, you could scarcely see the join, both were magnificent!

There is always a lovely atmosphere at any Rugby Roots  gig , thanks in no small part to the promoters  Richard and Anna Barnes, who are totally passionate about getting good quality music heard and determined  that everyone has a good night.

The apprentice ;  What can I say about Luke Jackson live? simply, he is a total revelation. I have listened to him on CD and watched videos for 3 years , and knew there was a real talent emerging, but this was the first time I had seen him play live and I have to declare I am struggling to be objective, quite simply he blew me away , I can’t remember the last time that happened. I am sure there were a few sitting there with the opinion that this would be a pleasant half hour which they would listen to politely until Martyn came on, such are the unenviable joys of a support act. However, within a verse of Run and Hide, Lukes opener, he had everyone completely spellbound. His command of the stage and his rapport with the audience belie his age. The belief and confidence in his songs and consummate guitar playing and the thoughtful delivery with sometimes  piercing pure vocals was nothing short of dazzling, and his short set went by way too fast.

Artist web link: http://www.lukepauljackson.co.uk/

Then came the maestro:

There are few things certain in life, there are the usual ones, death and taxes . However there is one other, and that is a Joseph concert is always an outstanding couple of hours, He has never given any less than 100% passion , honesty, compassion and insight and jaw dropping musicianship and  this night was no exception. Martyn has played at Rugby 9 times before and this, his 10th, was up there with the best of them. There was an air that we were going to be treated to something special , a feeling that has been filtering through from previous dates on this tour.

There were many highlights, new songs and familiar ones from his back catalogue . The new album has been  made three dimensional  on this tour, stripped of the production but  loaded with impact, from the spine tingling Crossing the Line with our added voices  humming away underneath Martyns stark words to the stomping and rocking No time for God . Older favorites not heard for a while have been given an airing , Like the mesmerising All This Time, always a joy to hear and I Will Follow. There were some surprises,  one special one was a breath-taking raw version of Springsteens classic The River upholding Martyns often used tag as Bruces Welsh counterpart, quite rightly so  too.

The biggest highlight for me, and one that many seeing this tour will say in the future “I was there when ..”  and  which , for me was loaded with so much significance, was when Martyn asked Luke back on to duet with him on one of Luke’s own songs Bakers Woods. Forget the age and experience gap ,this was just two exceptional musicians totally in tune with each other. There was a tangible sense of a baton being handed over and there were moments that I really wanted to bottle, it was quite beautiful . In 30 plus years I have been involved in music and witnessing some meaningful events and gigs, this was one of those times that are on that rare list of truly momentous.

If nothing else came from Rugby one glaring thing was apparent and that is acoustic music doesn’t get much finer than this.

All I have left to say is to urge folk to get to one of the dates that are left on this tour…

Trish Roberts

“There are moments on this record that I will always treasure; small nuances of memory and recall that are both painful and joyous. The highlight for me is the song ‘Archive’. On long car journeys touring across Canada last year with poet, guru and friend Stewart Henderson we talked, and talked and went deeper and deeper. He started writing, and at some point on a prairie plain in Alberta he handed me some words on the back of an envelope. Months later in the early hours of the morning I took them to a microphone with no melodic agenda and just played and sang. The result was the first and only take that ended up on the album. Its me with my soul howling. Its what I like to do.” Martyn Joseph

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Martyn Joseph – Songs For The Coming Home – reviewed by Trish Roberts

After 30 plus years of making music you would be forgiven for thinking an artist would plateau at some point, happy to remain within familiar boundaries of the singer/songwriter, the man, voice and guitar. However , that is most assuredly not the case here !. Whatever preconceptions there are of what to expect ignore them, they will be way off the mark; I know mine were.

This is Martyn as people know him, never shy of confronting subjects as only he knows how to. On this creation we have suicide, redemption, grace, soul searching, love, sacrifice, confession and moral ire, all tackled and delivered in such a way that is completely engrossing. This is also Martyn as we have never heard him, dare I say some of this is as personal as any album has been. It is not an album that a 20 year old could have written, this has only been arrived at by a life lived with eyes, heart and soul wide open.

The production by Mason Neely is vast and has well and truly shredded any blueprints, if ever there were any, but with the core of the Martyn Joseph people know still firmly there. It’s vital, exhilarating and subtle, dynamic and serene. If Under Lemonade Skies, the last album, was a look into the box of possibilities of where his music could go, with Songs For The Coming Home that box has been fully delved into. On many tracks he has created amazing sound backdrops with the inclusion of strings, steel guitar, brass, cello and drums while not overwhelming the man and guitar.

Every track is worth its weight right from the opener ‘Crossing the Line’, with the discordant music that weaves the song and matches the confusion and grief behind a suicide and the fall out that results. The song is always on the edge of shuddering into chaos but the slow beautiful guitar and Martyns tender/ tough vocals hold it together, it’s a song that each listen takes you deeper and dares you to ask questions.

The album flows effortlessly along with songs like the uplifting Still a Lot of Love’ ,  with the familiar man, guitar and gorgeous community singing .

My personal highlight is the life affirming  ‘Let Yourself’ an empowering and poignant song, with a cello carrying along Martyns vocals. This carries one of my favourite lines of the album, ‘And you can bring it on world, throw everything, cos in the end love wins big, and there are some of us who will not be lying down“.

Another highlight is the  stark confessional ‘Falling from Grace’ with sublime guitar that harks back to ‘Turn Me Tender’ from the 2004 album Deep Blue. It tells of the pitfalls we all stumble into through life now and again, some fall deeper than others but with the end telling us there is hope  .

The upbeat feel of ‘Feels Like This’ is a Bruce Cockburn like song which screams to be on every radio playlist, don’t be fooled by the bouncy singable rhythm though .

The re-worked Whoever it was … carries a different weight from the version from the 2003 album of the same name and at first glance at the track list I wondered if it had its place on this new album , simple answer is , absolutely. The voice maybe wearier and more measured  and the guitar slower, but the impact is deeper .

The guitar/ drum laden provocative ‘No time For God’  demands to be played loud! , the  rousing chorus will probably have the hackles rising on some followers .This appeals to my anarchic/ punk sensibilities and is a belter, you cannot help yourself sing along , it’s a proper  Saturday night festival rant, and there is  a great Wilco Johnson like harmonica solo screaming in the middle .

The key song that defines the album is the profound ‘Clara’ a classic Joseph storyteller song , you are drawn into this amazing panoramic image that unveils the primal power of music that transcends comprehension …but I will leave that there , it is to be discovered…..’Hope we all have a Clara’

Finally ,the  turbulence returns with the hard hitting, contradictory and courageous  ‘Archive’  Probably one of the finest and piercingly personal songs  he has produced.

I have only scratched the surface , but there are 10 tracks on this album that have to be revealed to each listener without too many preconceptions , it’s a case of headphones on, or a long drive or whatever, and immerse yourself in this track by track.

Buckle up for one heck of a ride.

In short, this is a colossal creation.

Trish Roberts – 5* Review

“There are moments on this record that I will always treasure; small nuances of memory and recall that are both painful and joyous. The highlight for me is the song ‘Archive’. On long car journeys touring across Canada last year with poet, guru and friend Stewart Henderson we talked, and talked and went deeper and deeper. He started writing, and at some point on a prairie plain in Alberta he handed me some words on the back of an envelope. Months later in the early hours of the morning I took them to a microphone with no melodic agenda and just played and sang. The result was the first and only take that ended up on the album. Its me with my soul howling. Its what I like to do.” Martyn Joseph

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Latest tour date details: http://www.martynjoseph.net/category/tourdates/