MARTIN STEPHENSON – Pink Tank (Barbaraville Records BVPTCD)

Pink TankHaving revisited, reworked and rerecorded Salutation Road (a wonderful piece of work), Martin Stephenson turns his attention to another bunch of old songs – let’s face it; there is only so much new say about being in isolation on the Scottish coast. These eleven tracks were originally released in 2004 under the title Airdrie and it’s clear that Martin wasn’t completely happy with it. The title comes from a grey toy tank that he found and painted pink – hence Pink Tank.

Whether by accident or design Pink Tank is a remarkably uplifting set – perfect for these times. It’s not that these are not serious songs but the new recording gives them a real brightness lifted by some fine guitar lines – some by Josh Mackenzie – and the fiddle of Neil James Morrison. Martin has re-sequenced the album so it now opens with the quirky love song, ‘Daffodil’. “I’m gonna blame it on the daffodil” is the final line of each verse and that sounds quite reasonable. ‘Nairn Beach’ is just about being home – a good place wherever yours happens to be – a theme that is picked up in a different way in ‘Mountainous Spring’.

Now things get a little strange. Paradoxically, ‘Hell’s Half Acre’ is a country blues in praise of Martin’s friends, his gods and angels, while ‘Light Step Running’ includes the immortal lines “I’d rather be a butterfly than a bluebottle / Cos you don’t have to bounce off any walls” and like many songs here, it’s about finding your own path in life but also, as ‘You Are Running’ explains, remembering that you need a helping hand. ‘Steel String’ is about a broken marriage from which only an old guitar survives.

‘Beautiful Judas’ and ‘The Burning Of Cathaidh’ both take an unexpected side-step and I’m still trying to puzzle them out but ‘Joy You Give’ is back to happy thoughts and the closing ‘Easy Road Home’ is again about following your own path in life except that this feels more like the journey towards death. Martin talks about his “field of light” and “the call of the wild swan” but is he being deliberately ambiguous?

Whatever you choose to draw from it, Pink Tank is a fine album and I’m glad to have it beside me.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: https://daintees.bandcamp.com/ (while Martin’s main site is being rebuilt.)

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