MARTIN STEPHENSON & THE DAINTEES – Salutation Road 30 (Barbaraville Records)

Salutation Road 30Following the pattern of recent years Martin Stephenson has re-recorded his third album with The Daintees to celebrate its anniversary. Actually, Salutation Road 30 is so radically different from the original that it’s practically a new album. Gone are the brass and flute parts, the running order is completely different and we have a tight four-piece band with the addition of Neil James Morrison on fiddle and Anna Lavigne on backing vocals. Back thirty years on are bassist Anth Dunn and Gary Dunn, whose lead guitar is a major force on the new recording, while Shayne Fontayne (not Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist) occupies the drum stool.

Martin says that this is how he originally heard Salutation Road and you can only wonder why it didn’t turn out like this. Listening to the original again it feels like an attempt to turn Martin into the new white soul boy. I can pass the time with it pleasantly enough but the re-recording grabs me in a way that the first version doesn’t.

The album now opens with ‘Spoke In The Wheel’, an enigmatic song and I’m not sure I understand it even now. For the most part, though, the album is rooted in Martin’s native North-East and the new sequencing emphasises this. ‘Long Hard Road’ might seem rather generic in isolation but leading into ‘Big North Lights’, as it does now, a narrative begins to emerge, to be revisited in songs like ‘Heart Of The City’, ‘Morning Time’ and the title track. The “she” who ‘Left Us To Burn’ is, of course, Margaret Thatcher and with her long gone the pressure to make that the opening track is also gone. It’s still a bloody good song, though.

Salutation Road 30 marries the songs of a young man with the performances of a man with thirty more years experience behind him. It shows: there is an ease and confidence in Martin’s singing and the band sound relaxed. It’s tight and a bit funky, melodic and uncluttered – the intended groove, I reckon.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Left Us To Burn’ – how it was: