I don’t think I’ve heard Jethro Tull for decades, but one of the highlights of the band’s music was, for me and many others, Martin Barre’s guitar work, so I jumped at the opportunity to check out his solo album Roads Less Travelled, for release on 31st August 2018. The CD features ten excellent songs plus an instrumental, all composed by Martin. As well as Martin’s guitars, banjo, mandolin and mandola, these tracks also feature regular members of the Martin Barre Band Dan Crisp (lead vocals on most tracks), Alan Thomson (bass/fretless bass) and Darby Todd (drums), augmented by Alex Hart and Becca Langsford (lead and backing vocals), Josiah J (percussion and Hammond organ), Aaron Graham (drums) and Buster Cottam (double bass).
If some of the tracks here make me think of 60s/70s West Coast and/or fusion music, that’s by no means a criticism, and it shouldn’t be taken as implying a dated approach. Partly, I think, it’s because Dan Crisp’s versatile vocals sometimes remind me of specific individuals from that era; partly because of the effective use of harmonizing lead guitars; partly because of the super-accurate way the guitars, bass and organ track each other’s lines.
Here’s the track listing.
- ‘Lone Wolf’, with the addition of Martin’s mandolin, mandola and banjo, borders on country-rock. And a splendid example it is. Slightly reminiscent of the Eagles or even Buffalo Springfield.
- ‘Out Of Time’ alternates some nifty electric riffing and athletic drumming with some gentler acoustic work.
- ‘I’m On My Way’ also benefits from Martin’s mandolin and mandola, as well as some tasty electric guitar.
- ‘Roads Less Travelled’ features some very nice lead guitar harmonies, and lots more.
- Becca Langsford takes over the vocals on ‘Badcore Blues’, a moody song supported by acoustic guitars, drums and bass guitar. A long way from country blues, but captures some of that desperation despite its sophistication.
- The nostalgic ‘Seattle’ balances acoustic and electric guitars with spot-on vocal and instrumental harmonies.
- ‘For No Man’ features breath-taking interplay between the guitars, fretless bass and organ over sophisticated changes.
- ‘(This Is) My Driving Song’ leans towards riff-driven 70s rock. Works for me…
- The jazzy ballad ‘You Are An Angel’ features Alex Hart on vocals, backed by Martin’s acoustic guitars and Buster Cottam’s double bass. Very classy.
- ‘Trinity’ is the CD’s only instrumental, with Martin playing all instruments. A tour de force, drawing on a wide range of musical influences.
- ‘And The Band Played Only For Me’ features Becca Langsford on lead vocals, ably augmented with Alex Hart’s backing vocals. Somewhere on the borderline between jazz and city blues, with lovely guitar and organ. If ‘Trinity’ is my favourite track, this is my favourite vocal track, though ‘You Are An Angel’ isn’t far behind it.
Excellent songs sympathetically sung, a master of the guitar (and no slouch on several other instruments), accompanied by a set of accomplished musicians and singers, and flawlessly produced: this is an album that’s going to stay on my iPod…
Artist’s website: https://martinbarre.com/
The Martin Barre Band at The Citadel, Wigan: