Review Summary: Decades on from his struggles with alcohol, Martyn's emotional style still comes through. Though decades separate it from his heyday in the 70s, Martyn still excels in the same areas that helped him create magic in the past.
In his 60 years, English born musician John Martyn lived through many hardships. Grace & Danger
, an album recorded amidst marital problems & alcohol addiction was etched with Martyn’s troubles. On The Cobbles
comes at a more stable point in Martyn’s life, though nonetheless recorded after having his leg amputated. Decades on from his struggles with alcohol, Martyn's emotional style still comes through. Though decades separate it from his heyday in the 70s, Martyn still excels in the same areas that helped him create magic in the past.
At the heart of Martyn’s music is his voice. Album opener Baby Come Home
opens with a simple count in, then the line “Woman come home, please please woman come home.”
Martyn’s voice modulates the deeper registers; rough from age, each note is belted out with gusto from the chest. Martyn still proves capable of softening his tone though in Under My Wing
, singing with a smooth consistency. There are rough edges that give away his age, but Martyn’s control in roaming around the confines of his voice is sublime. In Songs such as My Creator
, the age in his voice brings a brilliant multihued quality, each line revealing years of both aching and happiness. His voice provides an full-bodied accompaniment to the dulcet tones of the saxophone in My Creator
. Each smooth section of the song contribute in underscoring Martyn’s lyrics, which offer simple and heartfelt tenets to live by, “Be righteous, be black or white as you please – but never bend the knee.”
A classic from Martyn’s album Solid Air
appears on the album, Go Down Easy
being presented in a significantly altered state. A delicate touch is used in the song, each instrument seeming unwilling to overstep their bound in the gradual build up. This version offers a more electronic sound, with a multitude of textures feathered over each other. The bulk of On The Cobbles
differs to this approach, with most songs focusing on the simple combination of Martyn’s acoustic guitar and vocals. Time and again this uncomplicated approach works exquisitely, songs like One For The Road
offer melodies easy to relax to as Martyn settles in and focuses on what he does best.
On The Cobbles
’ content proves to be as rich as that released in decades past by Martyn. Though the magic is not as consistent as in albums like Solid Air
and Grace & Danger
, Martyn still puts forth his heart and soul through his vocals. The acoustic approach throughout much of the album does credit to his skill, and when working in tandem with his matured vocals, Martyn manages to cultivate some beautiful moments. For fans and those unaware of the man, On The Cobbles
offers plenty of insight into why Martyn won over so many and managed to continue doing so even decades after his debut.