Album review – Martyn Joseph: Deep Blue

Here is my latest album review for BBC Radio Cornwall. It’s Martyn Joseph’s latest album – although, having said that, he’s now got another one out with Poet Stuart Henderson … does the man never stop?!?

Deep Blue: Martyn Joseph

There are some musicians who defy labels. The moment you try to pigeonhole them they break out and look like something else. Martyn Joseph is one of those people.

For 20 years he has been producing songs that touch the places you would rather leave untouched. His scalpel-sharp incisions into the pomposity, greed and arrogance of too many of us can bring you up sharp. His absolute outrage at the destruction of people’s lives in the name of oil revenue is written on his sleeve but at the same time this gracious Welshman is one of the most approachable and gentle performers.

He has the knack of writing the songs you wish you’d thought of and then performing them with a passion fuelled by a deep Christian faith and a desperate desire not to be counted with those who use God as a flag for their own political and religious agenda.

Martyn’s latest album – Deep Blue – is filled with his unique ability to conjure our anger at the follies of our leaders and, in the next breath, to ring out such achingly beautiful words of personal remorse that he could be a priest in musician’s clothing.

The album opens with Some of us – a catalogue of descriptions.

Some of us are bluffing

Some of us are trained

Some of us are truthful

Some of us have waned

Some of us are yawning

Some of us are harmed

Some of us are outcasts

Some of us are alarmed

This sense of ordinary people searching for a voice is a constant one in Martyn Joseph’s work – songs about mothers driven to prostitution or the girl who struts around the boxing ring in between rounds are previous examples. Here, in some of us, we realise that – however we feel – we all wait between the veil of circumstance … waiting for grace.

If you are one of those people who watches the news and wonders how did we end up here? Then this is the album for you: in fact there’s a song that asks just that question and hisses with outrage at the actions of the powerful nations.

We make the enemy confess

We’re Jesus wearing battle dress

We chain them up and make them crawl

God bangs his head against the wall …

The history of Martyn’s beloved Wales is always a feature of his songs and, on this album, he pays homage to American singer Paul Robeson whose support for Welsh colliers is a part of mining history.

Then, when you are expecting another tirade about the war on terror, Martyn Joseph turns the table and, in the nearest thing to a prayer he has written in years, says:

Turn me tender again, Fold me into you

Turn me tender again, And mould me to new

Faith lost its promise, And bruised me deep blue

Turn me tender again, Through union with you.

Writer Martin Wroe, in his biography of Martyn Joseph says: “Some musicians want to move your feet, some just want to move you: Martyn Joseph wants to move heaven and earth.” That about sums it up. A wonderful album, recommended without reserve.

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