There is no doubt that my musical discovery of the summer has been "The Martin Harley Band" - a three- piece in which bass, drums and harmonies encircle Harley's guitars, vocals and songwriting. The band are effortlessly versatile, moving seamlessly from humourous 'old-time' music like, "Love in the Afternoon" (above) to the gourgeous acoustic balladlry of "Winter Coat", before diving headlong deep into the Delta Blues. In their blues numbers Harley often swaps his standard acoustic guitar for a lap-steel, on which he slides with immense gutsy, emotional power. Pete Swatton is a wonderful drummer who also contributes some backing vocals, as does bass player Jay Carter.
I came across this great band almost by accident! I was in London for a few days in the summer, in the week prior to the Olympics - and so googled about a few places to see if there were any gigs on. The Half-Moon in Putney, West London is easily reachable from my parents house, so my Dad and I went out for the night, so see if the band on were any good. It turned out to be a really fantastic evening. The band were on top-form, and clearly able to deliver very high-quality live performances of songs - injected with that harder, more exciting edge that comes from the immediacy of facing an audience. This was absolutley first-rate live music, delivery by three highly talented individuals who must play together a huge amount to gain the tightness and togetherness they achive as a trio. I can't wait to hear them live again.
Their most recent album "Drumrolls for Somersaults" is a wonderful collection of songs, in turns jaunty, funny, bluesy, sombre, delicate, poignant and fun - it is a finely produced and rather wonderful album. It seems to be the least blues-orientated of Harley's works, and blues lovers might wish to start with the "Money Don't Matter" album which contains the stunning "Blues At My Window" track which sounds like John Martyn singing and Peter Green playing guitar - and that is very high praise indeed.
Here's a short (non-musical) promo for Drumrolls for Somersaults!
Here's a few more links to Martin Harley band stuff:
Three videos from Drumrolls for Somersaults here
Blues At My Window (audio) here
Money Don't Matter (live video) here
Official Website (including tour dates) here