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

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