Flying Cat Music is proud to present Martyn Joseph in concert in Phoenicia on Saturday, September 13, at the Empire State Railway Museum located at 70 Lower High Street. The show begins promptly at 7:30 p.m. with doors opening at 7:00. Admission is $20 or $17 with RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 845-688-9453.
Though he has long been highly regarded in the United Kingdom and Canada, American audiences have only recently begun to discover Martyn Joseph, a dynamic singer-songwriter who released his first album back in 1983. Colin Irwin of Mojo Magazine, in fact, once called Martyn Joseph “Britain’s best kept secret.” It is hard to envision a more compelling performer than Martyn Joseph live in concert. The Edmonton Journal states, “Joseph is one of those complete, charismatic singers and storytellers who can take the atmosphere of a performance to an almost cinematic level.” While Tom Robinson of BBC 6 Music calls Martyn Joseph, “One of the most charismatic and electrifying performers in Britain today…tough and passionate.”
Charismatic is an adjective frequently used by those who see Martyn play live. His stage presence is magnetic, an effect not due to showman gimmicks. As Jeff Perkins in his Blogcritics column, Eurorock, wrote, “There is a fire burning within Martyn Joseph, a passion and a simmering anger that has not dimmed even slightly during a career spanning over twenty years. Martyn Joseph does not just write songs. He pours his heart and soul into them.” Q Magazine, which has a status in the UK similar to what Rolling Stone has in America, observes that Martyn Joseph has, “a depth, resonance and emotional punch, which belies comparisons.”
It is not surprising then that some have called Martyn Joseph the Welsh Bruce Springsteen; though, with a body of work including eighteen studio CD releases, Martyn has a unique music legacy of his own. BBC Radio 2, Britain’s most listened to radio network, featured Martyn Joseph in a peak-time series on singer-songwriters alongside the likes of Elvis Costello and Richard Thompson with separate episodes devoted to each of them. Still, a comparison between Joseph and Springsteen is more than superficial. In fact, Martyn’s most recent CD, Tires Rushing By In The Rain, is a seventeen song compilation of acoustic versions of Bruce Springsteen songs. In an interview with the South Wales Argus, Joseph describes how that came about:
“I’ve always done a couple of his songs in gigs. People said we’d like to have recordings of these, but I was always a bit shy because it’s sort of hallowed turf. Then a couple of years ago at a radio station in New York I met a guy called Dave Marsh… Dave has written biographies on Bruce and he suggested that if the covers were well thought out, he would write the sleeve notes. I thought maybe I should take the risk; I recorded the 17 songs in three days last summer.” It was a risk worth taking. Dave Marsh did indeed write the liner notes, proclaiming the finished work, “a damned good album” and acknowledging Joseph’s “eloquent and audacious trek” while stating “This is not a tribute album in the ordinary sense. Martyn Joseph has found a piece of himself that synchs with the songs and offers it to his listeners as a new route across the same map. Forty years into Springsteen’s career no other artist I can think of has tried any such thing.”
Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Folkwords.com cuts to the chase saying, “Should you decide to cover beloved songs by iconic singers, people will soon let you know if you’ve got it right or wrong – with his latest album, Tires Rushing By In The Rain, Martyn Joseph has it spot on.” R2 Magazine notes, “Tires Rushing By In The Rain is the folk album the Boss never made… Joseph’s courage is rewarded precisely because he remakes them in his own image” while Maverick Magazine raved, “Fans of both Joseph and Springsteen should be delighted with this set.” Folkandroots.co.uk called Joseph’s Springsteen covers, “masterly, eloquent, strong, inspiring, electrifyingly involved, and life-affirming readings,” and Acoustic Magazine describes the overall CD as, “an acoustic greatest hits The Boss himself would be proud to present.”
Those who are already familiar with Martyn Joseph’s own songs have always heard a strong thread of social consciousness, empathy, and compassion running through them which reflects the singer’s life long, strong commitment to causes that he believes in. Asked in an interview whether he considered himself primarily a musician or activist, Joseph once replied, “I can’t decide… I guess it’s all part and parcel of the same thing for me.”
In the past, Joseph has focused attention on trade justice, third world debt cancellation, and human rights; and Martyn was awarded an Amnesty International accolade for his work with the Brazilian Landless Workers’ Association Movement. In the last year, Martyn Joseph launched a new ongoing project called “Let Yourself Trust” described as a non-profit organization that “aims to make a small difference out of great love and commitment by challenging injustice wherever it’s found, educating via advocacy, campaigning for human rights, and raising issues that have been forgotten or ignored via fundraising initiatives, thus bringing about greater awareness for beautiful people in powerless situations….without being held hostage to a particular ideology – only one of change and hope.”
The first two projects backed by Let Yourself Trust are the Alrowwad Theatre in Bethlehem, described as “an amazing outlet of expression and creativity for children who know only oppression, heat and concrete” and Project Somos, which is building a village to provide “a secure home, a loving family and a hopeful future to Guatemalan children and at-risk mothers in need.”
Martyn Joseph raises money for these efforts by, among other things, using his own record company to issue special CDs, the proceeds from which benefit the Trust and its ongoing work. You can learn more about Let Yourself Trust by going to its website at http://www.letyourself.net or, better still, ask Martyn about it in person when he comes to the Empire State Railway Museum this Saturday night.