For the few who attended the Bijou Cafe's Monday evening show, two more unusual performers could not have been presented. Both John Martyn and Essra Mohawk have unique styles and both have achieved at least cult following over the years.
Martyn relies almost completely upon the guitar and its modern electronic technology, while Mohawk still sees herself as Philadelphia's most emotive pop songstress.
Martyn's roots go back to the English folk scene, and at one time, both he and his former-wife, Beverley, made records together. But, over the years, Martyn has become increasingly devoted to electric-guitar explorations. His present performances are devoted almost totally to assorted electronic gizmos such as echo-machines, rhythm-units, and various distortion devices - and he is somewhat self indulgent with them all.
Although he has managed to achieve a sophisticated distillation of blues, folk stylings and other guitar genres, his present show is as pretentious as it has been for several years. His explorations are broad in scope, with interesting chordal voicings and repetitive figures. Unfortunately, his use of technology -an unending assault- clogs the performance considerably.
For Essra Mohawk, who has released several interesting albums over the last hall decade, the directional search continues. Opening as a solo, she invoked the declamatory, sometimes almost recitative style that has become her trademark. She projects well and has a certain magnetism and feverish sensuality about her. Unfortunately, most of her material has a meandering, unfocused melodic and rhythmic sensibility; she would do well to look into vehicles from other writers a bit more.
For the last half of her set, she was joined by localite Duke Williams and several other area musicians. Things picked up a bit, and the blend was surprisingly successful - considering that Essra Mohawk has one of the more eccentric deliveries.
This review was printed in The Philadelphia Inquirer of Wednesday 8 June 1977.