June 1, 2023

All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable set of twelve songs that demonstrate Martin’s compositional skills. Those with a leaning towards relaxing acoustic music will certainly love this but there’s enough variety to ensure there’s something here for everyone to enjoy.

For every Ed Sheeran, there must be thousands of aspiring artists hoping that the mastery of the acoustic guitar, a decent voice, and the ability to pen a decent tune will be enough to make their fame and fortune. That makes for a very crowded market and it’s difficult for anyone to stand out and get noticed but this release from Hull-born Carrie Martin certainly has all the three qualities listed above. In terms of her mastery of the acoustic guitar, her playing sounds excellent to these ears, but I am no expert. There again, if someone of the calibre of Gordon Giltrap has taken Martin under his wing and encouraged her in her career then you can rest assured she must be top class. As for her voice, she has a fine and varied tone, with Kate Bush being the English name that springs immediately to mind, although I sense her influences are more from the folk tradition from the other side of the Atlantic (Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez). Of course, the acid test is the ability to pen decent tunes so let’s dive in and see how Martin fares.

Photo: Laup Wilson

Firstly, no, the album does not include a cover of the famous Barbara Streisand song! It does, however, open with a partial title track called Beside The Evergreen, which is a fine example of modern folk music. The song shimmers along on a delicate and warm bed of acoustic guitar, accompanied only by Martin’s voice and a fretless bass. It’s a languid and peaceful tune and considering that there’s not a whiff of angst about it, it’s hard to believe that it was written during the Covid lockdown.  A few of the twelve songs here are in a similar gentle acoustic vein, including another highlight, Earth Angel that has an excellent melody, and despite it being a slow-paced five-minute number, it doesn’t overstay its welcome (thanks again to a magical atmosphere created by acoustic guitar and bass). Martin takes a break from singing in the acoustic instrumental piece Boxes Of Nothing – clearly a tip of the hat to mentor, Gordon Giltrap. The CD version of Evergreen has a second instrumental entitled Loren, although neither of these tracks are truly memorable.

If the album only consisted of these pleasant acoustic folk songs, then those with more mainstream rock fans might get itchy feet by the halfway mark. Luckily, Martin mixes things up nicely, and does so most dramatically in the lengthy eight-minute epic Keep In The Light. It starts off as if it’s a regulation three-minute acoustic piece, but the lovely melody is first accompanied gently by piano courtesy of Oliver Wakeman and then with a full band. There’s time for a very prog-sounding Moog solo from Wakeman and the song climaxes with a powerful electric guitar solo from Roger Fisher (Heart). It’s an excellent track that would have been at home on a prog album by say RPWL or Mystery.

Keep In The Light is followed by Deep Blue Heaven, another intriguing song. It begins with a slow vocal over a rocking 3/4 rhythm that feels slightly reminiscent of R.E.M.’s Everybody Hurts. Martin’s vocal delivery is soulful with a hint of blues, and that blues element comes to the fore in the understated but excellent electric guitar solo performed by ex-Argent guitarist John Verity. While Martin successfully heads off the danger of the album being full of too-similar folk songs, there is a preponderance of slow-paced tunes here. Some songs manage to get up to mid-pace but Martin doesn’t have a stab at the sort of bouncy pop song that might have added a little more energy to proceedings.

Leaving aside the bonus track – a reworking of an early song, Luna, on the vinyl version, and Loren on the CD edition – the album proper closes with the stunning Lost In The Right Time. It’s a beautiful ballad with a gorgeous melody, sung emotionally and convincingly by Martin, and is probably the high point of the whole album. The icing on the cake is the use of the dulcimer which adds an original timbre to the piece.     

All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable set of twelve songs that demonstrate Martin’s compositional skills. Those with a leaning towards relaxing acoustic music will certainly love this but there’s enough variety to ensure there’s something here for everyone to enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpruqmmLNJc