I can’t actually speak for every person who was there in the ABC last night, for there were many, but a quick glance around the audience during the final minutes of the evening’s musical performance has given me the confidence to assert: Jamie Martin blew us all away!
The Glasgow based guitarist/singer/songwriter launched his debut self-titled EP on Thursday night with a gig in the O2 ABC’s Room 2 which saw an evening of music spanning and connecting the styles of blues, pop and RnB. Martin’s own sound, which should by now be familiar to many Glasgow gig-goers (he plays a weekly slot in Box, on Sauchiehall St), is built of these three elemental styles, which when combined with his fluent, colourful guitar playing and limpid, natural vocal style gives everyone cause to stop and pay attention. Think along the lines of Hozier, Gary Clarke Jr, Dan Aurbach and of course, that other JM, John Mayer. In the spirit of Blues tradition, it seems Martin makes no bones of his influences; he shares aspects with each of these musicians (and a host more) without having failed to develop a style of his own too.
Opening up the night’s proceedings was Charlotte Marshall (of Charlotte Marshall and the 45s’) who, varying from her usual soul-tinged full band set-up, set the tone nicely with a series of lazy slow blues jams. The texas half-time shuffles the trio threw out (with Marshall on bass and vocals) sounded great; with the guitarist channelling Stevie Ray Vaughan in both tone and intensity. The laid-back jams served not only to loosen up the still-arriving crowd, but also to compensate for the last-minute drop out of one of the other support bands (The Nickajack Men) who couldn’t make it due to illness. Live music folks! Shit happens; and they carried it professionally.
Next up was Akrobat, a newly formed pop-folk band of Admiral Fallow/Mumford/Lumineers genus. Three guitars, one stomp box and plenty of vocal harmonies; their energetic, heavy strumming patterns and booming quarternote beat made for a very spirited, if not terribly edifying, performance.
The raison d’etre of the evening is the EP- a four track long collection of songs written by Martin over the course of 2015. Dealing heavily in the themes of love and relationships, these bittersweet compositions seem to lay emphasis on “the song”, if you will, (rather than “the band” or “the guitar”) which is much to Martin’s credit. The songs are moody and soulful and the mix is rich and layered, all of which give the debut EP a convincing atmosphere, overall. I do get the sense at one or two points, however, that the tension being built (very effectively, it must be said) doesn’t always lead to quite the release I was hoping for. The opening track is most guilty of this; a tremendous tension-builder, but doesn’t quite land the hit into the next song.
This short album deserves to be understood in its proper context, for it was not only written and performed in large part by Martin, but recorded, mixed and mastered by him as well (bar two tracks which were mastered by Ed Woods, an illustrious mastering pro). This care and hard work is indicative of the thing which impresses me most about him, and it’s something most obviously expressed in his live performance.
Martin’s own performance was professional, emotional and undeniably groovy. Performance is the key word here; the lights, the band, the stage all worked together- it wasn’t just a “gig”. Kicking off with EP opener “Don’t You Think” the obviously enthusiastic band brought us up from near silence to brooding anticipation as Martin walked on a stage blanketed in darkness, picked up his guitar and began to sing. Echoing his words and backing up his strong vocal lines were a couple of singers who, along with the brass instrumentalists introduced later on, played the critical role of retaining that sonic richness heard on the EP. On both Martin’s flanks were a set of musicians charismatic and deeply talented in their own right; a second guitarist respectfully adding colour on top of Martin’s smouldering guitar tone, which formed the foundation; a striking bassist- both in sound and look- tying the drums and guitars together with sensitivity to both; and a hip-hop inspired drummer who’s sound and style caught me off guard- his proclivity for playing just a bit behind the beat, and blending straight and swung rhythms really giving the band a contemporary kick. This band reflects the best of what Glasgow has to offer: an international ensemble (Holland, Poland, Ireland and Spain) some of whom study at the RCS. Martin got all these guys and girls together and acts as bandleader; an underappreciated skill that shows off Martin’s ear for arrangements superbly.
After two songs off the EP, Martin jumped into his first cover of the set: Gary Clarke Jr’s “Bright Lights”. This makes total sense in the set and allows Martin his first real opportunity to solo on his Gibson ES 335, tearing up and down the neck and carrying off bends without fault. Next was a solo song which didn’t quite make the cut to the EP, but sat nicely in the set list as reprieve, followed by an older song- “Worst In Me”- then into a powerful cover of Van Morrison’s “Sweet Thing”. All minor niggles I have about tension building on the EP are ironed out with the sheer energy of the performers.
The finale came with the song “How to Love” (the “Gravity” of Martin’s back catalogue) and this was the point where the night kicked up from being supremely enjoyable to a fully-blown “moment”. As Martin brought the band down so he could thank his friends, family and colleagues, each of whom helped him in innumerable ways, I was struck with the authenticity of what I was seeing before me. Bringing the band back up and giving each member a moment to shine before ending on a high made me believe I was truly seeing a moment of emotional sincerity and musical sensitivity.
For more about Jamie please visit www.facebook.com/jamiemartinmusic