An exponent of lap-style slide guitar, Martin Harley is the main vocalist and writer here. He is joined by Daniel Kimbro on upright bass and backing vocals. The result has both atmosphere and astuteness. It is a simple enough set up, with the duo playing live in Southern Ground Studio in Nashville, so it’s about the skill of the players and the strength of the songs. Both are good, an honest, simple and direct setting that was made to represent how Harley had been performing live recently.
We are lucky enough to have, here in Ireland, at least two excellent similarly styled guitar players; NC Lawlor and Clive Barnes. So we’ve heard how expressive an instrument the guitar is when played in this style. It is so here with songs which touch on blues, folk and various roots associations. There is a trio of covers as well as original songs. Goodnight Irene is arranged as a slow blues and is very effective as a new look at the traditional song. His interpretation of Tom Waits’ Chocolate Jesus has an appropriate angst with some dexterous slide. Blind Willie Johnson’s Nobody’s Fault but Mine has an essential understanding of how one can take the wrong path in life and Harley’s voice is full of the pain of that understanding.
Throughout Harley matches the emotion of his voice with that of his playing. Daniel Kimbo adds additional depth to the performances on what is a very accomplished album, full of light and shade. The closing song, the uptempo Love in the Afternoon closes the album with a sense of the uplifting, life affirming moments that life can bring. For this album Harley has stripped his sound back and shown that he can more than hold his own in a variety of musical settings.