Live in Tuscany – more reviews
Featured Blues Review – 2 of 9
|Eddie Martin’s Big Red Radio – Live In Tuscany
12 songs – 72 minutes
Eddie Martin seems to have been around forever without ever quite graduating to A-List status. With 14 albums behind him, and a glowing reputation as a singer, songwriter, acoustic and electric guitarist and harmonica player, it’s difficult to know what more Martin can do. Well, after the release of his “Best Of” compilation, Blues Took Me By The Hand, in 2014, Martin has now followed up with Live In Tuscany, a recording of the first gig of his new band, Big Red Radio. And it’s a little cracker of an album, also available as a DVD (not reviewed here).
From the solo voice (backed by a gospel choir) that kicks off the opening track,”Blues Took Me By The Hand”, to the wild, driving harmonica of the closing instrumental “Steam Train”, this album has something for everyone. Featuring 11 songs written by Martin, together with Alberto Gurrisi’s short, dreamy keyboard piece, “Intermezzo”, there are nods to the likes of Fred McDowell (on the start of “Throw Me A Line”) and Charlie Patton (“Five Things”) as well as hints of early Dire Straits (on the verses of “Something About You Baby”) and even (at least to this reviewer’s ear) Uriah Heep (“Watching The Weather”). Olalekan Babalola’s superb percussion adds some African sunshine to a number of tracks, including “Flowers In The Desert”.
As you might expect from a man who took the name Red Radio from a street theatre group in pre-war Germany, Martin’s songs are insightful, intelligent and thought-provoking, dealing with topics based around social justice, including refugees, inequality and anti-racism (although love, loss and lust are all well-represented as well). He and his band are also masters of the art of dynamics, slowly building up songs such as “Throw Me A Line” by gradually adding one instrument after another, before bringing them precipitously down to a whisper and back up again.
Big Red Radio is an Anglo-Italian project, with Martin himself on guitars, harp and vocals, backed by bassist Marco Bachi, singer Michela Lombardi, Luca Giovacchini on guitar, banjo and mandolin, Matteo Sodini on drums, the aforementioned Gurrisi on keys and Babalola on percussion, and the Jubilation Gospel Choir on vocals. Italian blues musicians have been creating some big waves recently through the likes of Matteo Sansonetto (whose My Life Began To Change was warmly reviewed in BluesBlast Magazine, issue 26 May 2016), Emanuele “Manny” Fizzotti and Paolo Mizzau. The musicians in Big Red Radio, while perhaps leaning more towards the blues-rock end of the musical spectrum, are nevertheless of a similarly high quality. The Jubilation Gospel Choir in particular adds wonderful backing vocals to tracks such as “Flowers In The Desert”. The most impressive element of the band however is in each member’s restraint and understanding of when not play. So for example when Gurrisi adds a keyboard flourish or Martin throws in a tasty National slide guitar lick, their effect is exacerbated by their unexpectedness.
Recorded on one night in Barga, Tuscany, Live In Tuscany benefits from superb production (by Martin and Bruno Bacci) that captures the magic of a live performance without any of the muddiness o f so many other live recordings.
Live In Tuscany is a thoroughly enjoyable release and a timely reminder of Eddie Martin’s multi-faceted skills. If you like intelligent, well-written blues-rock with a heavy layer of old country blues, you need to check out Eddie Martin’s Big Red Radio.
22 Feb 2016
4 Stars “a career high”
British veteran’s impeccable Italian job marks a career high.
Befitting the handsome theatre where the album was recorded, the rapturous 16-piece band excel in hatching the range of hybrids that are Martin’s calling card. From the National guitar-stoked Charley Patton revamp of Five Things to the harp-wailing, suitably cataclysmic Watch The Weather, the dynamic interplay is a joy.
Brilliant Nigerian percussionist Olalekan Babalola (Cassandra Wilson) deserves special mention: a freewheeling master of restraint, his playing underpins this loose-limbed, expansive ensemble and he’s the very pulse of a percolating and primed band. A slide master and electric warrior, Martin is in exalted vocal form, capturing a Stonesy gospel vibe with righteous female chorus on Ingolstadt.
Martin claims this is the best in his 13-album career. It’s hard to argue.
It’s celebration time for the British-born and super versatile blues artist Eddie Martin. After his 2014 Best Of album, Martin has now released a new record, “Live In Tuscany”, in which the scale of his eclecticism reaches one of the highest peaks of Martin’s music career.
The live album, released under the name of Eddie Martin’s Big Red Radio, took almost 3 years for the blues Maestro to be able to find the right musicians and complete this project.
“Live In Tuscany” develops the original form of some of Martin’s classics to a complete new level, dazzling through country-blues, Americana and folk, incorporating brilliantly even some pop music elements.
The outcome fits perfectly the album’s concept. “Blues Took Me By The Hand” resonates as the work of a complete blues orchestra, pulsating throughout the whole tune with elegance and craftsmanship. “Ingolstadt” has got a fabulous down-tempo groove, with a great solo on keyboards by Alberto Gurissi.
The intensity of “Five Things” brings back memories of Blind Willie Johnson, Something About You Baby carries through some little funky vibes while “Month Of Mondays” Bossanova delicate sound help even further to make this album even more palatable to any music lover.
The rock attack on “Watching The Weather” detonates as strong as a Led Zeppelin song would have done in the old days. Martin’s voice sounds as good as it has ever been throughout “Live In Tuscany” and his work on Harmonica, Slide and Electric Guitar is first class.
Martin plays with the lyrical themes on the album very cleverly. Aware of the multi-ethnicity of the musicians present in this project, Eddie Martin incorporates themes very close to his heart, such as social justice to others related to social harmony, tolerance and respect for one another.
“Live In Tuscany” represents not just a music feast in its entirety but it is also a clear manifesto of the high level of music skills of an artist like Martin. An artist that never stops to surprise and entertain people with his talent and ability.
Giovanni “Gio” Pilato
On September 27th 2015, Eddie Martin ( who really should by now have been awarded the accolade of ‘national treasure’) marked a new milestone in his career by recording a Live DVD and album with an 18-piece band of top international musicians in a beautiful theatre in Tuscany Italy. The album features songs from his 25 year back catalogue and new material written specially for this new line-up. Eddie is joined by top Nigerian percussionist Alolekan Babalola, who contributed to 2 Grammy award winning albums with Cassandra Wilson and has worked with a stellar cast of musicians including David Byrne and Prince. The top Italian rhythm section includes Hammond jazz maestro Alberto Gurrisi and the band also features the Jubilation Gospel choir with guest soloist Michela Lombardi.
The CD opens with a stunning revisiting of Eddie’s song “Blues Took Me By The Hand”!, complete with an acappella opening, some outstanding resonator and harp work, and a full gospel choir. Check out
too, the fabuloso instrumental, Steam Train which comes with a Sonny Terry style harp part and a driving rhythm section, Want something laid back? Then have a listen to Month of Mondays, with some delightful keys work from Signore Gurrisi. Eddie says in publicity stuff that this is his best ever work. He got that right!
Dec 12 2015
10 out of 10
Live In Tuscany Alive with Eddie Martin’s Big Red Radio – this is a new project. The mix of musicians, sound and excitement makes the 3 years for the blues Maestro to connect to the right people worth every conversation it took. Eddie Martin! You have once again surprised us with a new approach that captures modern blues rooted in the past but stretches out to a brave new musical world.
This is a blues album alive with fresh, concentrated energy that is electrifying with country blues, meeting acoustic music and wide freedom of musical self-expression. Eddie Martin’s Big Red Radio has distilled rock with blues and acoustic music so that every radio station will want to play at least one track loud and very often.
Opening Acapella, Blues Took Me by the Hand begins with the fervour of gospel and then glorious harp that reflects the lyrics; and then the music picks up with layers of distinct musical colours. This is blues that has lyrics, singing and joy. Blues is still rocking and rolling in the hands of Eddie Martin.
The song writing is inspired and the shaping of tone makes the album exciting to listen to from the first note through to the closing phrases of Steam Train; like a journey, the tracks surprise and you never know what is around the corner.
The dozen tracks are inventive while keeping at the heart the shape of the blues. How Can This Be has a high-speed tempo with control, redolent of hill country blues with a British twist as Eddie sings the lyrics and blows the harp. Shaped like an orchestral production the sound is huge with the drumming from Matteo Sodini shaping the beat.
The centre of Bavaria and inspiration for a blues song do not naturally connect – Ingolstadt proves you wrong in the hands of Blues maestro Eddie Martin and his Italian band. European blues reflecting travelling to Ingolstadt with lots of angst and stress in a number with a fat and deep groove and the lead break from guitarist Alberto Gurissi is sublime.
Want a change of tempo and shape? Watching The Weather is no sedate weatherman but a rocking tornado of a storm. The simple percussive opening of the track gives a hint of the tempest that is going to swirl around you as you listen, the sound opens up with harp and drum this is gutsy, rootsy blues that grows into a huge rocking tempest of musical joy. Who would want a Month of Mondays? No-one that is unless you are loving every moment of this song as Eddie and the band slow down the beat and lower the temperature with an elegant number.
The blues is sizzling and the guitar licks and riffs are full of attitude with harp playing that has the wildness of a dervish dancing in a sandstorm. With the addition of the gospel choir and singing this is an album that has shaken any dust or cobwebs lurking in the box of musical soul called the blues. Blues is alive and kicking with the music being stretched, developed and re-shaped by the artful hands of Eddie Martin and Big Red Radio.
Live in Tuscany is modern music that excites the rhythms in your soul.
Bluesdoodles gives this CD TEN doodle paws out of TEN ….
www.rootstme.be 15 November 2015
Review “Live in Tuscany” CD by Eddie Martin’s Big Red Radio
Eddie Martin is one of those artists who has never disappointed us with his releases. We were not a little disappointed in 2013 when he arrived very late in Wespelaar Swing and his set was thus reduced to twenty minutes because you do not have so many chances to see the man live at work in Belgium. This is unfortunate because Eddie Martin can certainly be counted among the ten best blues guitarists in the UK. On his latest album “Live In Tuscany” you can experience the party atmosphere of the concert as well as the man’s own performance. For enthusiasts, there indeed is a publication of this concert on DVD.
The opener is the fantastic “Blues Took Me By The Hand” a great version of a familiar song from his repertoire featuring the rumbling piano of Alberto Gurrisi and the background vocals of the Jubilation Gospel Choir. Martin shines as usual on guitar and harmonica. The band, and the atmosphere are emotionally charged and this is a great vocal performance. “Throw Me A Line” seems to start somewhat hesitant and seems rather a successful improvisation than a structured song.
It is a double enjoyment to have the musical interplay between the keyboards and the guitar in the tempo change of the solo section. On “How Can This Be?” you can well hear what outstanding musicians and singers Eddie managed to rally around him for this concert. “Five Things” gets a solo intro by Martin on his prized National Resophonic guitar and when this fades there is an enjoyable lift as the backing vocals re-enter. They then slowly take the upper hand and end this track at a staggering level!
From the also-recommended album “Contrary Mary” comes the track “Ingolstadt”. This version is inspired from start-to-finish it was a brilliant move bringing the gospel choir to this arrangement! There is then the musical fireworks of “Something About You Baby” where you are taken with the feeling of the audience where the excitement rises by the secnd. Also from “Contrary Mary” we then get the Rocking “Watching The Weather”. It is now forty minutes in and we have been taken from climax to climax.
Halfway through the total of more than seventy minutes mellifluous music on the record appears a musical interlude by keyboardist Alberto Gurrisi. it is both the only number that is not written by Eddie Martin and a welcome respite before the party resumes with the jazzy “Month Of Mondays”. Next is “Flowers To The Desert” taken from Martin’s “Folk and Blues” album. The charming arrangement again features the gospel choir in the background also colouring the subdued, dreamy “Love And Understanding” which steadily grows to a climax . “Steam Train”, where Martin also proves himself to be an excellent harmonica player, ends a magnificent album that will nest seamlessly in our end of year Best Releases list and which I recommend wholeheartedly!