There’s a certain ease and confidence about his performance which you don’t normally associate with an artist of his youth. It’s perhaps not too surprising he’s been nominated in the Young Folk Award category in the 2013 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and the Horizon Award for best emerging talent. As Martyn said later, definitely a case of ‘watch this space.
Acclaimed in some quarters as the ‘Welsh Woody Guthrie’, Martyn Joseph’s current tour sees him out to promote his latest recording ‘Songs For The Coming Home’. The album contains a loose running theme throughout, of returns and homecomings of sorts which sit comfortably with Joseph’s mix of English folk and North American travelogue songs. As you would expect from Joseph with a 30 year career behind him, it was an absorbing and compelling performance. Even when accompanied by just variety of acoustic guitars, he is able to command attention with his forthright views and opinions in his between song patter (some may say rants) and his songs. The likes of Feels Like This and Lonely Like America show that he can mix up the more dynamic and uptempo material amongst the ballads and narratives. And always an artist who likes to connect with his audience, On My Way saw Martyn descend from the stage into the seats and deliver a singalong from an empty seat in the audience. The centerpiece of the set though, is a new song, Clara, played on the tenor guitar,which typifies the album’s theme with a narrative of two characters who, in their old age, revisit their past through and slowly gain a realization of who they really are and how they were connected. Powerful and thought provoking stuff.
The American influence comes across strongly in the lyrics and themes of the songs and the likes of Arizona Dreams see him drifting very strongly into Springsteen territory and particularly when his lyrics talk of “footprints I must follow in this broken promised land.” Perhaps a more apt title for Martyn may well be the ‘South Waleian Springsteen’ as the night ended with a distinct nod to the acoustic style of the New Jersey bard. A verse into Cardiff Bay he segued into Springsteen’s The River with its unremitting tale of an thankless life in the valleys and finally picking up the mini ukulele for the first time and playing unplugged his rendition of No Surrender was a faithful tribute to the original.
A final encore saw Luke join Martyn for a duet on Luke’s Bakers Woods, a song he wrote at the age of 14, much to Martyn’s disgust. It was almost a case of seeing dad and lad; or a case of the old king and the young pretender to the throne. Maybe twenty years from now it will be Luke Jackson at the top of the tree acting as a mentor for young talent.
Review/photos by Michael Ainscoe