Scotland doesn't seem to have spawned a flood of pop music artists known in the United States. But Glasgow, in particular, has been the birthplace of a few notable acts, and this week we will focus on two of them.
John Martyn began playing the guitar in 1967 at the age of 19. Three months afterwards he had recorded an album - his development at mastering that instrument was remarkable!
In 1973 he got more exposure in the United States when he toured with Traffic and Free. But by that time his solo albums also were creating a small but noticeable stir.
John's music seems to burst directly from that twilight area from which the creative process works. There's no mediation for commercial considerations, no molding each song into a potential hit single. John is so deeply entrenched into his own music he hardly takes notice of how wide its appeal might be.
He is eccentric by nature. His tangled uncombed hair perfectly parallels his off-center innovative folk/ jazz style of guitar playing and vocalizing. In fact, his sound takes a little getting used to. It's not the kind of music you immediately sing along with. It's different, totally unique. But it's lovely, rich and deep in subtlety and feeling.
Each of John's last four albums are marvelous musical progressions, beginning with BLESS THE WEATHER, and followed by SOLID AIR, INSIDE OUT, and now SUNDAY'S CHILD (ILPS 9296).
He drags his voice in most of his songs, slurring each word masterfully. And his superb guitar work is complemented by the excellent snapping bass of Pentangle-member Danny Thompson.
On slower numbers, like Just Now, May You Never, and (on this album) Lay It All Down and The Message, are trips into full-blown creativity, devoid of commercial consciousness.
Like fine wine, his records will not be consumed by everyone in the market. But those who do get to hear him will deeply appreciate his music.
The other Scots' contribution to pop music is a duo, Gallagher & Lyle. They are native Scotsmen who have been absorbed with American music and who have concocted an interesting number of songs and albums, the latest being THE LAST COWBOY (SP-3665).
This review from Hawaii was published in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin of Thursday 19 December 1974.