Dzal Martin 2017
British guitar cowboy gallops into glorious sunset to find a fountain of youth.
This artist has played with crème de la crème of musicians – including such luminaries as Van Morrison and Whitney Houston – still does, occasionally; hell, he even was immortalized by Eric Clapton, on “Peaches And Diesel” that would a key to the pronunciation of Dzal Martin’s name. Perhaps, a session state of mind is what prevented the veteran from striking in his own, with a set of songs written over the years, and maybe it took health issues and surgery that he underwent in 2016 for Martin to finally deliver a solo work, and a fine one at that.
There’s a joyous sense of freedom to opener “The One Who Got Away” whose crisp vocal harmonies and electric sitar inform the whole album with a sunny perspective – only it’s not the singer that’s on the loose now, shiny strings in tow, yet his emotions, and albeit “Somebody Left Me” seems despondent in its translucent flow, Martin’s optimism is a multi-faceted theme of this record. Not ashamed to admit he’s afraid sometimes, Dzal may be at his most vulnerable in “Scared” where pedal steel and organ weave a delicate strand of hope into deceptive desperation, but the artist’s yearning for belonging – very palpable in the acoustic strum and stately piano behind “Northern Girl” – is turned on its head with “I Don’t Need You” which has Terry Reid adding grit to the piece’s unhurried sweetness.
The guitarist hardly needs another voice, though, what with his own pipes sounding so reassuringly on “Heaven Help” to create the most upbeat mood, up to the roar of the riff-filled “I Can Wait” that’s spiked with a blues harp courtesy of John Fiddler’s, Dzal’s former colleague in BOX OF FROGS. Seen from a higher ground, Martin’s remorse and regret create orchestral scope for “House For Sale” which is radiating his sad smile, and for “Operator” to spread spiritual wings, while the many mandolins of “Drive” – as if deriving energy from his nickname – give way to a gloriously light dance, topped with a blistering, soaring solo. Down-to-earth instrumental “Bob And Paula” (surely not about Geldof and Yates, but rather a countrified echo of the aforementioned Slowhand’s tune) seals the songs with a stamp of timelessness, enhanced by a record crackle, yet the album as a whole captures a moment as perfectly as young Dzal’s sketch on its cover, and this Martin moment was worth the wait.