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A review of...

Little Martha by David Tattersall

Little Martha
Date: 
November 5, 2012
Writer: 
Adam Millard
8.0

Never one for lying down, David Tattersall has recorded a solo album of instrumental blues covers and blues influenced material on his third (if you include The Lobster Boat, last year's collaboration with Howard Hughes) solo outing Little Martha. And it’s a solo album in the purest sense of the word, apart from one guest spot from fellow Wave Pictures man Franic Rozycki who adds a mandolin cameo. The album was recorded live underneath a Ukulele shop off Brick Lane with one microphone and no overdubs, and the results stay true to the spirit and artists that influenced it (Reverend Gary Davis, LeoKottke, Blind Blake, Ry Cooder, John Fahey, Duane Allman are all name checked by Tattersall) with a rawness and warmth coming across despite the ferocious intensity of some of the finger picking on show. We’ve spoken before on this website about David Tattersall’s emergence as one of the very best guitarists around, but this album shows a completely different side to his musical palate, and he seems completely at ease having ditched the electrics, for a day at least. The majority of the album is made up of cover versions, but you’d be hard pushed to find anyone who’s familiar with them all, with the obvious exception of the man who’s performing them. Perhaps the most famous tunes included here are a stunning version of John Fahey’s “The Red Pony” and“I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” which most people will recognise from either the Nina Simone version or from Barry Norman’s Film Programme on BBC TV. Tattersall’s rendition borrows more from John Fahey’s reworking (on 1973’s After The Ball) but with this being a strict solo set, it jettisons the ramshackle Dixieland brass which jazzed up the latter of Fahey’s recording. Elsewhere there’s some Duane Allman (“Little Martha”), Reverend Gary Davis (“Candy Man”) and even a pretty faithful cover of Jefferson Airplane's “Embryonic Journey". As for the original material on offer, “Boxing Your Birthday” is a slice of slide guitar genius, and also one of the many occasions where you’ll wrongly assume that it’s a cover version. Similarly, on “Happy Michael” the British-midlands born Tattersall perfectly captures the playful side of the American south in a bouncy little number which, combined with the ups and downs of "The Sunshine Hotel" neatly rounds off an energetic side one. The second half of the record finds Tattersall in more contemplative mood as the energy makes way for subtle pauses, downbeat melodies and technical flourishes. In an over-crowded and over-polished music industry, its nice to see that one man and his guitar can still have their day. Little Martha is released 29th October on WIAIWYA