JEFFREY MARTIN – Thank God We Left The Garden (Fluff and Gravy Records via Loose)

Thank God We Left The GardenJeffrey Martin’s Thank God We Left The Garden is an acoustic guitar and voice bare bones recording (all the way from Portland, Oregon) that ventures, with ample melody, into a lonely scripture verse that prays with a “lucky recipe of time and place.” Wisdom dances in the late-night fire flames of these songs as they reach into the always symbolic and dark spectral starry night skies that are always filled with the edgy beauty of forbidden knowledge.

The first song, ‘Lost Dog’, touches a deep personification of lonely “dead in a moment” perception. The naked acoustic guitar begs for patient confessed sainthood. Sometimes, folk music walks on a razor edge of a thought.

And, ‘Garden’ wants “to peek behind the curtain,” (a la Bob Dylan!) with a slow biblical labyrinth lyric that, in its own way, still wants to “dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free.” It’s a slow throttled acoustic song that probes (and, perhaps, plucks!) the “fruit tree” depths of faith and psychology “in my mind that’s filled with beauty and dark”. The song is a melodic baptism into the wisdom of doubtful mysticism. Sure. The next song, ‘Quiet Man’, is yet another acoustic stroll through “the holes in all our bibles where we make secret compartments”, as we can “meet God in a cigarette same as in a sermon”. This is early Dylan lyricism caught in a brand-new existential amber that preserves the always here and the perpetual now.

Then, and oh my, ‘Red Station Wagon’ is the odd glance, a memory, a casual comment, “a punch in the arm”, a psychological confession, a good question to God, and then just a touch of electric guitar – all condensed into an intense song that just magically dissolves into yet another “peek behind the curtain”. Good folk music does stuff like that. It’s just an idea, but JM’s music conjures the work of (the great!) Bob Martin whose Midwest Farm Disaster album carved honest songs into the ever-earnest folk song soil. Big compliment, there!

And that lonely literary scripture verse continues: ‘Paper Crown’ has the simple burning depth of Neil Young’s ‘Don’t Let It Bring You Down’. Then, ‘There Is A Treasure’ continues with the melodic soft acoustic wind, with a hopeful message that’s “blowing” through the wise words, “Someone will stop and try to change a life”, and, of course, the gothic optimism of “The sun will rise as it always does on the day that I die”. This is brilliant American literature stuff that echoes Thoreau’s eternal “simplicity” in Waldon. Nice!  Then, the “soft parade” ebbs again with ‘All My Love’. This is yet another song that stops the night with a thoughtful memory of a sunrise. And the acoustic guitar recalls Nick Drake’s strummed Pink Moon passion.

The metaphoric prayer ‘Daylight’ certainly plays a really good Bob Dylan hand in a melodic folk song poker game.

But ‘They Didn’t Know’ gets rawhide rough with more psychology of a child’s tale of a broken home, and the realization that, sometimes, “The story is already written”. Fatalism put to acoustic verse; I suppose.

The beautiful ‘Sculptor’ is a love letter that confesses, “I miss your breath on my shoulders”. The pathos of love, I also suppose.

And, finally, ‘Walking’ isn’t any sort of escape. It’s the perfect coda to an album that sadly walks in the footsteps of youthful music, a distance friend and “a far-off song,dogs gone to dream”, a mother’s laugh that’s “not often but it’s real”, and a father’s gifted hand me down thought that “We’ll be gone with nothing, the same way that we came”.

John Prine’s song ‘Hello In There’ solves those complex algebraic word problems without mathematical skill because it accepts the unsolved resolution that “Me and Loretta” still “don’t talk much more”, and “Davy” will forever be “lost in the Korean War”. Great folk literature, in its best grooves, reads graveyard promises with melodic scepticism, and then, like the tunes of this aptly titled, Thank God We Left The Garden album, relish the certain bite of the forbidden and always very tasty human apple.

Bill Golembeski

Artist’s website:

‘There Is A Treasure’ – official video:

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