Whoever It Was That Brought Me Here Will Have to
Although it's been close to a decade since the U.S. heard a new album by Welsh singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph, it's not as if he's been hibernating. During that time, he's toured the UK, Canada and Europe tirelessly, recorded more than a half dozen CDs, many for his own label, and his involvement in international charity causes recently won him an Amnesty International award. In February 2004, he was named 'Male Solo Artist of the Year' in the official Welsh Music Awards. Martyn has been described in two of England's most influential music magazines as 'One of acoustic music's most original voices' (Q) and 'An artist of enduring worth' (Mojo). Joseph says of 'Whoever It Was. . .,' his first Appleseed release and first new studio CD in five years, 'I'd made a number of political points on various projects in the last few years, and this record just began to form in a more reflective way.' So rather than dwell on the specific, his themes here are universal - love and it's bittersweet realities, the need for personal activism and hope despite the limitations of human nature - and winningly conveyed by his strong, yearning vocals and intimate acoustic accompaniment. Unlike his five highly-produced Top 50 British chart hits and two CDs on the Sony label in the early '90s, Martyn opted for minimal production on 'Whoever It Was. . .' in a successful attempt to capture the passion and edge of his memorable live shows. Each of the eleven songs was recorded live in the studio by Martyn on vocals and acoustic guitar, then a little coloration - keyboards, a second guitar, cello, Martyn's harmonica, occasional backing vocals - was sparingly added. With nine original songs (four of them co-written by longtime Joseph collaborator Stewart Henderson, a Liverpudlian poet), there is a unity of voice, lyrical outlook, and instrumental approach that links each track into an emotionally satisfying and thought-provoking whole. Various aspects of love are addressed on the opening 'Love Is,' a poetic list of love's options, the exhausted 'Every Little Sign,' and the celebratory 'This Being Woman,' a rousing tribute to older women now invisible in our youth-cult society. The obligation and challenge of activism and self-determination are summoned in 'Wake Me Up,' 'Just Like the Man Said' (in which Martyn delights in pinching a few phrases from Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen and U2, among others), and the truly stirring 'Walk Down the Mountain,' inspired by the true story of Dr. Beck Weathers, a hiker left for dead on Mount Everest in the May 1996 storm that claimed eight victims, who managed to survive the disaster. For a glimpse of the political side of Martyn's music, Appleseed has appended to this CD (with Martyn's blessing) two tracks from one of his benefit EPs - 'The Great American Novel,' written in the '70s by Larry Norman, angrily laments the death of the American Dream, and 'The Good in Me is Dead' is a Joseph original from the standpoint of a young Kosovan refugee looking for his family at the country's border. Martyn Joseph will be bringing his reputation as 'a profound [onstage] experience' (Boston Globe), renowned for his improvisatory lyrical gifts and sense of humor, to the U.S. for a month of solo dates in April and May 2004, his first major American tour since 1993. MARTYN JOSEPH BIOGRAPHY: When he was interviewed by BBC Radio after winning the Welsh Music Award as 'Best Male Solo Artist of the Year' in February 2004, Martyn Joseph told listeners that he'd won more awards for golfing than for his music. Strange but true - one of Great Britain's finest singer-songwriters and performers first planned to be a professional golfer, remains the youngest club champion at one of Wales' oldest golfing clubs, and won a few championships in his adolescence. But Martyn, born in Penarth, Wales, in 1960, also started writing songs when he was 12 or 13, and gradually increased his proficiency as a songwriter and guitarist when it became apparent he'd never be a star golfer. After playing in local coffeehouses and churches, Martyn recorded his appropriately titled I'm Only Beginning debut record for a tiny label with money contributed by his father. After his first five records (which Martyn now considers 'crap') and a self-financed live album that sold 30,000 copies, Martyn made the jump to the big time when he was signed by Sony Records, which issued Being There (released in 1993 in the US) and Martyn Joseph (1995 US release). The two CDs spawned five Top 50 chart hits for Martyn in the UK. After leaving Sony, Martyn released two subsequent CDs on the Grapevine label before starting his own record company, Pipe Records, in 1999. His musical output since then has included several albums of new material, two CDs of live recordings, a 2-CD 'Best Of' set called Thunder and Rainbows: The Best We Could Find 1988-2002, and several benefit CDs and EPs for international social justice groups. Till the End was a multi-artist release to raise funds and awareness for the MST, the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement that is fighting for the rights of Brazilian peasants to own property, a struggle that has claimed more than 1000 lives; profits from last year's The Great American Novel are being used to benefit War Child, an international network of organizations working to help children affected by war. Joseph's involvement with the MST, including a trip to Brazil in 2002, recently won him an award from Amnesty International. 'To be involved in these worthy and important projects is a natural extension of the music,' says Joseph. 'It's not enough just to sing about it, sometimes you have to get involved.' Although Joseph has made only a handful of appearances in the US since 1993, he has toured the UK, Canada and Europe regularly, appearing with the likes of Suzanne Vega, Marc Cohn, Art Garfunkel, Clannad, and even Celine Dion. He finally returns to America for a series of solo performances in April and May 2004.