John Martyn

I was sad to hear that John Martyn had passed away.  He was a unique voice and talent and will be missed.

I first came to Martyn via Eric Clapton’s cover of May You Never on the Slowhand album.  From there, by way of the slightly unreliable portal of Deletion Records (High Street, Nairn – “For tomorrow’s sounds today” or, more accurately, a week next Thursday as long as the delivery comes in), I came to the excellent One World album and found Martyn’s trademark mumbling drawl of a voice – often more instrument than voice – and his off the wall guitar style: acoustic, finger-picking but deploying tape loops and odd tunings to create a wash of unusual sound.  Accompanied by his then regular foil of double-bassist Danny Thompson, Martyn’s sound was unique and deeply, deeply chilled-out; a blend of folk, blues, jazz and funk.  The closing Small Hours is a blissful track to drift away to.  Tracing backwards, I found the seminal Solid Air (from whence came May You Never); going forwards, I came, in time to the electric Well Kept Secret with its glorious, pleading cover of Joe Scott’s Never Let Me Go and to Grace and Danger’s cry of pain.

Somewhere on my redundant mediacenter pc, I have a copy of BBC4’s excellent Legends profile on him.  Hopefully, they will repeat it soon.  Aside from profiling John Martyn’s career, it is an interesting document of the toll which Martyn’s life took on him.  From the beautiful, bearded young folk-singer of the Solid Air era to the less than svelte, puffy faced veteran of later years. The programme was filmed around the time that Martyn had a leg amputated because of complications arising from diabetes.  It closes with a wonderfully philosophical Martyn saying he had no regrets, “I chose the road…”

A great loss.


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