sat 20/07/2019

CD: Sarah Jane Morris & Tony Rémy - Sweet Little Mystery: The Songs of John Martyn | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Sarah Jane Morris & Tony Rémy - Sweet Little Mystery: The Songs of John Martyn

CD: Sarah Jane Morris & Tony Rémy - Sweet Little Mystery: The Songs of John Martyn

Ten years after his death, Martyn the maverick is suitably honoured

Morris and Rémy have produced a keeper

“He was an outsider, a purveyor of truth”, Sarah Jane Morris has said of John Martyn, whose rackety life came to a tragically premature conclusion in 2009, when he was just 60. He was a key figure on the British folk scene, and his distinctive fusion of folk and blues quickly led him into the realms of jazz. A brilliant finger-picking guitarist in a style often referred to as folk baroque, Martyn was also an early experimenter with the fuzzbox and other gizmos, and while his own hero was Davey Graham, Martyn’s admirers came from across the musical spectrum and included Mike Harding and David Gilmour.

And also, it seems, Sarah Jane Morris, who quit drama school, having majored in Brechtian theatre which set her nicely on the path toward political music and playing in the Afro-Caribbean band The Republic, as well as with The Communards, with whom she participated in a Red Wedge tour (time for another?). Twenty years ago she released her first solo album and her career since has been diverse, embracing musical theatre and film as well as jazz and folk, her reputation growing on the international stage.

Like Barb Jungr, Morris has reimagined many a songbook, and her fusion of jazz, soul and R&B works well with Martyn’s catalogue, though her interpretations are not as dark as the originals – which is of course her prerogative. She has worked here with guitarist Tony Rémy, the two musicians co-arranging 11 Martyn songs including “Head and Heart”, from his last studio album completed and released posthumously.

Morris’s almost androgynous voice is wonderful to behold. “Solid Air” (which Martyn wrote for Nick Drake, an even more youthful casualty) is one track that plumbs the depths pitch-wise, Morris wringing every ounce of emotion from the song as she bends notes and swoops, whoops and rasps sotto voce over a languorous open-tuned acoustic guitar motif punctuated by shimmering cymbals, drums and percussion. “One World” and “Sweet Little Mystery” sound particularly black, vocally and instrumentally. “Carmine” is faster and less satisfyingly bluesy that the Martyn original.

But this is a keeper of an album featuring, in addition to the mesmerising Rémy (who also co-produced with Morris), a bunch of wonderful musicians. Callum MacColl of the MacColl – Seeger folk dynasty, did the mixing.




Her fusion of jazz, soul and R&B works well with Martyn’s catalogue, though her interpretations are not as dark as the originals

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3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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