Cardiff, St David's Hall, 22 Jan 2007

23 Jan 2007
The Western Mail
Andrew Wilcox

St David's Hall, Cardiff

I suppose it may be difficult to support John Martyn. Yet somehow John Smith, tonight's supporting act, manages to cram references to Star Wars, Tim Buckley and the problems with registering your own name as a domain (http://acousticsmith.com/) into his set and pull it off with a great guitar style and a sweet deep voice that takes you back to the singer songwriters of the Seventies.

It’s more than three decades since Solid Air appeared and the album has mesmerised music fans ever since. It was seen as THE John Martyn album. An album that transcended folk, rock, jazz and blues.

I only recently revisited it (after first hearing it in the 90s as a student) but when I knew I was going to the gig, I got hold of the re-mastered CD. After listening to the haunting melodies and unique guitar style matched with John's wonderful vocals, I couldn't wait for this concert.

I wasn't disappointed. If you're a fan -and the majority of the audience were- then you were in for a treat. The whole of Solid Air was played in full, but, as John said "not in the order you recognise". As he talked he sounded like a cross between a delta blues singer and a pub crooner, but the appreciative crowd were only interested in listening to one of the best guitarists of his generation. He seamlessly mixes electric guitar and blues with pounding rock and progressive jazz, from the upbeat Over The Hill, the scary I'd Rather Be The Devil, my favourite, May You Never, and of course, Solid Air, mixed in with reinterpretations of his classic back catalogue.

Many years of on the road excess have taken a toll on his sweet sounding voice, giving it a darker, deeper quality (if that's possible) that gives the songs more resonance and a style that is all his own. The great lyrics haven't dated one bit. This man has obviously influenced the gravel-voiced troubadours that seem to bother the charts nowadays - but they don't have anything on Martyn.

Andrew Wilcox

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