I was in a music store last week, looking at CDs when the artwork of a CD grabbed my attention. I looked at it more closely and saw that it was a new Jeff Martin recording. For those who don’t know him, he was the frontman of the Canadian band The Tea Party, who were active in the ’90s, up to their breakup in 2005. Their style was a mix of raw rock and blues, with a middle-eastern flavour. After the breakup, Jeff put out a solo album in 2006, and a record with a new band, the Armada, in 2008.
Even though I’ve been a little disappointed by his post-Tea Party efforts, I remained a big fan of Jeff Martin. And it was with great pleasure that I discovered he was back…and rocking.
Before talking about the music, I’d like to talk a little bit about the visual. When CD came along, the jacket became less important than it was on a (much larger) vinyl. And it’s almost disappearing now with MP3 and digital music. However, I personally really love that piece of art that is, to me, part of the musical experience. And in that specific case, I must say that I really love the artwork of the CD. It’s really beautiful, and set the vibe for that middle-eastern flavoured record. Even the booklet has this mystical side that is just awesome.
That being said, let’s jump into the music. Right off the bat, Martin and his band set the pace with The Ground Cries Out (which is also the album title). The pounding percussions, the heavy guitars and that exotic melody immediately put us in a Tea Party flashback. However, I have to say that he does not sound like a copy of himself. It’s just that he brought back that spirit that was behind Tea Party’s music.
Of course, you’ll also find on the album a touch of blues and slide guitars, as Jeff Martin seems to cherish it. Good examples of that are Queen of Spades or Riverland Rambler.
Another of Martin’s trademark is instrumental acoustic songs. And of course, you’ll find it here as well, in songs as Blue Mountain Sun or The Mekong. On this last one, Martin widens its influences to add a touch of oriental melodies. I would say there’s a little something Chinese in this song. I believe this is the first time he explores this, on record at least.
The album closes as strong as it opened, with The Pyre. Its heavy guitar riff will leave you begging for more.
To me, this album is one of the interesting album 2011 has given us so far. It sure isn’t The Tea Party. There was something special between Jeff Burrows, Stuart Chatwood and Jeff Martin. Those of you who have seen them live know what I am talking about. But this is clearly a great rock album.
Now I can’t wait to see (or hear) how this will sound live.