Reviews

Texas Martha and the House of TwangTexas Martha and the House of Twang
Album: Long Way From Home
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 10
Website: http://www.texasmartha.com

You'll have a pretty good idea of what the album has to offer from the name of the act, Martha being Marty Fields Galloway, the quartet's singer, songwriter and acoustic guitarist. Although born and raised in Appalachia country, descended from Kentucky and West Virginia stock and now based in France, Texas country runs in her blood.

She lays her cards on the table from the get go with 'Born To Boogie', not a T.Rex cover, but an urgent slab of self-describing Southern roadhouse rock n roll, the driving drums and electric guitar punctuated by pedal steel licks while Galloway belts out the vocals with the sort of gutsiness that suggests you wouldn't want to challenge her to a drinking match. The express train keeps rolling as she asks' are you ready to go to Dixie' before launching into 'Take You Down', taking the pace down a notch for the chugging title track where those Lucinda Williams meets Joan Baez comparisons make themselves felt.

Lionel Duhaupas's tumbling pedal steel colours the 'I ain't gonna change' lyrics of 'Lover's Lane' with its excursion into mid-tempo barroom balladry and, while not the album's strongest cut, it's nevertheless delivered with a conviction that carries it through. Far better is 'Johanna' which, featuring country-blues organ from Vincent Samyn, is a solid story song about a friend that carries echoes of Bob Seger's ballads, the laid back mood carrying over into the twangsome ache of 'Streets of Bordeaux', another organ-backed number, where she partly sings in French. One of the standouts has to be the reflective 'Where The Red Grass Grows', Galloway's world-seasoned voice bringing a heartfelt sense of melancholy and regret to the calling me home lyrics.

Having been through a relatively dreamy patch, they kick things back into the saddle for 'Strike', another dose of Southern country rock boogie with punchy guitar from Duhaupas, then comes the tour de force with the Lucinda-esque 'Do As You Are Told'. With a brisk border country and gospel groove to the rhythm, it's another real life story song, here about a generation of women who were expected to know their place if they wanted to survive, written about her aunt, Letha Mae Fields, who left her home in West Virginia and headed for New Orleans, dying alone at an early age in the 1950s, buried in a pauper's cemetery where she swept away by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The album ends as it began with another storming number, 'Gotta Move' hurtling along at a pace that reflects the restlessness in the lyrics, burning up the honky tonk dancefloor as she sings "got nothing to prove, gotta get in the groove." She hasn't and she does.

Mike Davies