Reviews

Beverley MartynBeverley Martyn
Album: The Phoenix and The Turtle
Label: Les Cousins
Tracks: 9
Website: http://www.beverleymartyn.com/

"The Phoenix and The Turtle" is the new album from Beverley Martyn [nee Kutner] and her first for fifteen years. Beverley is, perhaps, best known for the two albums she made with her former husband, the late John Martyn [real name Iain McGeachy], namely "Stormbringer !" and "The Road To Ruin". Both records were released by Island Records in 1970 but the couple made no further albums as a duo as Island Records believed that John was more marketable as a solo artist. John and Beverley divorced in 1980 and Beverley retired from music,only resuming her career in 1998 with the solo album "No Frills". John died in 2009.

"The Phoenix" was recorded in Wales by producer Mark Pavey who also plays guitar. Other musicians appearing on the album include bass player Matt Malley [ex-Counting Crows] and drummer Victor Bisetti [ex-Los Lobos]. This album features songs written by Beverley throughout her career, including her first ever song, "Sweet Joy".

Beverley's career in music began when she was still a student aged 16. She joined a jug band known as "The Levee Breakers", whose repertoire included two of the songs on this album, " Levee Breaks"[originally recorded by another husband and wife duo Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie in 1929] and "Going To Germany" [also from 1929, by Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers]. Beverley and her band played a storming version of "Levee Breaks" as part of the "Genius of Bert Jansch" concert at the Royal Festival Hall in December 2013, which was recently shown on BBC4 television. Her performance was described by Mojo magazine as "sounding almost Janis Joplin-esque". Indeed, there is a connection between the two as they both sound raw, earthy and steeped in the blues and they both performed at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967 !

Perhaps, the song on this new album that will attract the most interest is "Reckless Jane", a previously unrecorded song that Beverley wrote with the late, hugely revered Nick Drake, when they were neighbours in Hampstead in 1974, the year that Nick tragically died. The sumptuous strings by Owain Roberts recall the wonderful arrangements on Nick's albums "Five Leaves Left" and "Bryter Later" by the late Robert Kirby, who died in 2009. I have no doubt that Nick Drake fans will be delighted by the appearance of this "lost" song. Of her collaboration with Nick, Beverley says that "we started writing the song as a bit of a joke. I couldn't look at it for a long time after he died but then finally I decided to finish it".

John Martyn [who wrote his masterpiece "Solid Air" for/about Nick Drake] is himself the subject of a song on this album, "Women and Malt Whisky" which evokes the atmosphere of the folk revival of the mid - 1960's with lines like "Davey was your hero, Bobby was mine", which I take to be references to Davey Graham and Bob Dylan.

Clearly, Beverley's musical career has be fragmentary up to now, with many years in between releases but let us hope that she can sustain her "comeback" with "The Phoenix and The Turtle" and her showcase concert with her band at The Bush Hall on 29th April.

Peter Cowley