Starlit Skies

 
           
 

 

 

    "These songs are a selection of both old and new culled from various sources and my grateful thanks go to their authors Eric Bogle, Liz Weston,  Stephen Gee, Graeme Miles, Traditional and Pen.

    "Over the years of my being involved in the beauty of Folk Music, I still experience the thrill and exhilaration of hearing these songs for the first time and then to singing them. I hope that you, the important listener, enjoy the songs and music as much as I have enjoyed singing and playing them in the presence of these musicians of such high calibre."

Martyn

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STARLIT SKIES – Martyn Wyndham-Read (Wynding Road Music WR010)

 Every successive CD that Martyn releases is a carefully-structured artefact generously stacked full of lovely songs impeccably performed: perfectly self-contained, and yet self-evidently part of the long continuum of Martyn’s illustrious œuvre that now spans close on a half-century. And Starlit Skies, in every respect the worthiest of sequels to 2010’s Back To You, is thus also very much “more of the same”, the tried-and-tested winning formula that has made – and continues to make – Martyn such a popular and well-loved, and much repeat-booked, guest at the country’s folk clubs.

The spellbinding effect of Martyn’s presence in the intimate club setting – just the man, his guitar and a fund of songs and stories – is invariably brought into a different, parallel dimension on CD with the more expansive setting afforded by the recording studio. Here Martyn’s glorious voice rises and falls above and amidst the backdrop sensitively and selectively furnished by the unique, distinctive palette conjured by his “house band”, in this instance Iris Bishop (concertina and accordion), Joy Lewis (hammer dulcimer), Jon Wigg (fiddle) and Gary Holder (bass and tuba): never knowingly overstated, and always eminently tasteful. As regards the selection of material, this is as keen and brilliant as ever, and intelligently compiled into a thoroughly satisfying programme. Like Martyn’s own career, it begins with an Australian-themed sequence; this launches with a peerless account of Eric Bogle’s much-travelled masterpiece Now I’m Easy, followed by Martyn’s cheery jogalong setting of Jack Sorenson’s poem The Call Of The North and the love song Gum Tree Canoe. Martyn then turns to tradition with a significantly compelling take on Van Diemen’s Land, after which Henry Lawson’s Good Old Concertina comes as almost light relief.

After the lyrical Love’s Request and a revisit of the quintessential Another Fall Of Rain, our sojourn in Australia then takes a break and the disc moves into what for me is its most enchanting phase (and I don’t wish to appear to be underselling the appeal of the foregoing seven tracks!). The segment begins with the heart-rendingly beautiful Come Walk With Me, which was written by Liz Weston early in 2003 for the Maidenhead Folk Club biennial songwriting competition (but, criminally, wasn’t even placed); this song ranks up there with Ewan MacColl’s Joy Of Living in its strongly encouraging, tear-inducingly consoling message, and makes a well-judged link to Martyn’s performances of MacColl’s own love song You And I (which, like Come Walk With Me, sports a gorgeous harmony vocal from guest Carolyn Robson) and Eric Bogle’s One Small Star, the latter forming an ideal closer to the disc. Interspersed between these we find more Australian-inflected items (Stephen Gee’s drovers’ song Stars Of The Southern Cross, the traditional I Drew A Ship and a pithy little pair of tunes), and – tucked away here rather modestly – two more standout tracks: Graeme Miles’ uncommonly haunting Birds Among The Reeds, and Martyn’s own exceptional song on the theme of the early transportation of convicts to The Far And Fatal Shore. Aside from the fact that Martyn’s pindrop live rendition of the Graeme Miles song is even more effective for being sung a cappella, I really cannot find anything to criticise about this absolutely heavenly CD.

David Kidman.

                                                                                                                                                                            

 

 

This is a Wynding Road Production.