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EDDIE MARTIN Contrary Mary Blueblood 0011 (2007)

Eddie Martin

A slide guitar tour de force played with style and panache by an essential player, 'Contrary Mary’ finds Eddie Martin making his move as a contemporary crossover artist. He hasn’t totally ditched the blues and he certainly hasn’t put all his eggs in a rock basket, but rather he has produced a classy guitar driven rootsy exemplar, full of peerless playing, ambient moods, well worked out grooves and a slightly compressed feel to the production on a superb album by an artist who long ago found his classy niche and is now restlessly searching out new music avenues to express his unique style.

The title track rides on the back of an up in the mix big drum sound and low down dirty slide runs, giving the piece its authentic rootsy feel. Eddie’s guitar beautifully brings to life the lyrics acting almost as a secondary voice, building up the tension, which is finally gently resolved in a subtle outro To my knowledge this is in fact Eddie’s ninth album and it is testament to his creative spirit that he has yet to fall back on either lyrical or musical cliché. Sure there’s bluesy Texas feel to 'Something about You Baby (I Like)’, but this after all is an artist who spent two years in and around Austin honing his skills.

Eddie switches to harp for the atmospheric, and very relevant 'Watching The Weather’, with a special mention here for some measured, layered production, which uses a cushioned back beat reminiscent some of that early rootsy Zeppelin stuff, while 'Month of Mondays’ is the kind stripped down but powerful rocker that Kim Wilson would have been proud of. This is a classic example of the way the blues roots have been turned into a contemporary rock groove. There’s a clever use of introductory bv’s and a repeated big toned guitar phrase on 'Beautiful Miracles’ which acts as a foil for some low down dirty slide, and all this on a song dedicated to his infant. Again the production is something to behold as it is rare for such an intense recording process to be allied to bluesy roots so successfully.

The juxtaposition of the close to the mike vocals on the meaty shuffle 'Give It Time’ is a master stoke and another example of the light and shade of an album that deals in hues and tonal colours. Nothing is obvious and one piece seems set against another, to display the full extent of Eddie’s material and sumptuous playing. The scintillating guitar break on 'Give It Time’ is in fact the first one on the album, and it is as dynamic as it is brief, before Eddie teases out some of his most delicate notes, as the rhythm section of Marion Dalton on bass and Michael Wiedrich on drums do their stuff in exemplary fashion.

Naturally enough he follows the first shuffle of the album with something totally different, in this case a Hawaiian sounding slide opening to 'Better The Devil You Know’. Eddie builds the song on the back of a kind of signature slide riff that he delivers like a personal calling card. The colourful gothic narrative fits in perfectly with the title. This is the kind of song Canned Heat’s “Blind Owl” Wilson might have written and he surely would have smiled at the combination of the Sonny Terry McGhee 'Whoopin’ style harp intro and the Bo Diddley beat of 'Living for the Weekend’, though this is one of the few songs on the album when Eddie’s lyrical imagination fails to emulate some blistering playing.

The closing down home 'Ingelstadt’ is an archetypal road song that inevitably draws on some lovely acoustic slide, deft organ, and a fine vocal performance from Eddie, who somehow makes a road journey in Bavaria seem just as real and magical as any US highway song. The interplay of band, bv’s, harp, and acoustic and slide is the perfect blend, in fact a microcosm of an excellent album.


Review by Pete Feenstra

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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