One of the classic singer/songwriters and musicians of the last thirty years, John Martyn, will play two exclusive gigs at Roisin Dubh on Monday and Tuesday, December 5th and 6th. If you haven't got a ticket by now, then it's time to start hustling because those on sale after the gigs were announced sold out in a record-breaking two hours. That's the kind of reputation John Martyn has.
Since the release of his first album on Island in 1960 [sic] entitled London Conversation, Martyn has proved to be one of the most consistently original figures in contemporary popular music. Although, ironically, he has never had a major chart hit (but then, neither has Dylan, which must say something about the charts), he is regarded by his musical peers, people like Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Robert Palmer and members of The Band, one of the handful of singer/songwriters whose work puts them in a special category.
One of the marks of Martyn's originality is his openness to different kinds of musical influence. A Scotsman, whose formative years were spent on the folk circuit that exploded in the early part of the 60's, from the beginning he was attracted to the improvisational possibilities of jazz and the emotional depths of the blues. In blending these very different musical genres with his original folk impulse, Martyn succeeded in creating a new musical idiom that's had a lot of influence on subsequent music.
Among the albums he's released that should be part of anybody's essential collection are Stormbringer, on which members of The Band played; Road To Ruin, which saw the first major collaboration [with] a jazz musician, the acoustic jazz bassist Danny Thompson. Martyn acknowledges a big debt to Thompson, remarking that 'of all the musicians I've come into contact with, Danny has taught me most particularly about style and jazz technique'; and Solid Air, one of the most successful albums of his career, which included the beautiful song he wrote for his son, May You Never, as well as revealing the influence of blues singer Skip James.
In the years that followed the release of Solid Air, which gained for him a large and appreciative audience in Britain and the United States, Martyn continued his musical exploration with Inside Out, which was not a big seller, probably due to the fact of its being very experimental, with some brilliant but difficult rock-jazz fusions and some incredible guitar playing, and One World, influenced by the trip he made to Jamaica. Released in 1976 [sic], this was an early indication of the direction contemporary popular music was to take under the aegis of what we now call 'Global Music'.
A painful period, during which his marriage broke up, led to the very emotionally packed Grace And Danger - powerful, haunting songs, with strong lyrics and excellent playing. Like Grace And Danger, his next release, Glorious Fool, was produced by his friend Phil Collins, and included guitar contributions by Eric Clapton, who [also] did a cover of Martyn's May You Never.
After his second marriage he decided to go back and live in Scotland and the result, musically, was Sapphire, with Robert Palmer producing - an extraordinary blend of styles, from soul and funk to shuffle and reggae. A support tour for Sapphire became Martyn's most successful ever.
Since the enormous success of The Apprentice in 1990, Martyn's new label Permanent Records released a stunning new album called Cooltide, and his reputation today stands as high as it ever has, with a new generation discovering this most original musician.
Martyn is a thoughtful musician, who has never hesitated to follow where his musical instincts have led him. As a result, critics regard him as a person of rare integrity in a business where the striving for commercial success often leads to compromise. As one critic has written, "In an era when empty gestures of style proliferate in music, Martyn's music speaks with uncommon candour, intelligence and intensity."
Lucky ticket holders are in for a treat next week when John Martyn takes to the stage at Roisin Dubh.
This announcement was published in the Galway Advertiser of 1st December 1994. I left the surname in the headline misspelled for comical reasons. The other typos have been corrected.