Many years ago, when I was significantly younger (not to mention smaller) than I am now, my Dad would play John Martyn cassettes in the car. There's no doubt that my Dad has been and continues to be a massive influence on my musical tastes (as all fathers should be), but back then I didn't think I liked the music very much, couldn't understand a word of it, and was bemused by my Dad's enthusiasm for it. To me, this seemed like nothing more than a shouty incomprehensible man. It must have left an impression though as a few years ago during a flight to Barcelona, I was scrolling through the vast array of music on my iPod. As I reached the Js (and just why is it that I have so many artists beginning with J on my iPod?) I came across Solid Air. And so began my musical re-evaluation of John Martyn. He's not incomprehensible, I discovered; you just have to pay attention. And this is music that's well worth paying attention to.
Flash forward a few years to the present day, specifically Wednesday the 3rd of May 2006. My father, my uncle and I (a trio who regularly go to gigs around the Midlands area of Britain) travelled to Wolverhampton to see John Martyn perform at the Robin 2. My father had seen him perform before (and has the t-shirt to prove it), I hadn't. As a result, I didn't know quite what to expect.
The last time I visited the Robin (to see an entertaining performance by Nils Lofgren) it was being renovated. The renovations are now complete and the venue is perhaps one of the finest I've been to. The ceiling slopes down on one side of the hall, an architectural feature which I suspect enhances the acoustics significantly. It's not too big, not too small, and has a good-sized, raised stage to provide the audience with a better view of their performer. Future acts at the Robin include Jeff Healey, and The Blue Oyster Cult.
The support act for the evening was a young guy called John Smith; A common name, but an uncommon talent. He was superb, arguably one of the best support acts I have ever seen. The first song he performed involved using his acoustic guitar as a percussion instrument: Drumming with his right hand, while his left played notes on the fretboard. Three fingers were used for melody, one finger provided occasional bursts of bass. Subsequent songs were performed in a slightly more traditional (albeit no less impressive) manner, with the exception of "Winter", his final song. For this, he placed the guitar on his lap and used it to provide percussion for the duration of the song. During the chorus he would hit strings to provide short bursts of other notes. The track can be heard on John's MySpace page here.