There isn’t a simple formula for making standout, attention-grabbing music, but I reckon those three qualities will probably get you a long way – and Dom Martin has them in spades, as his third album Buried In The Hail demonstrates.
This isn’t yer common-or-garden blues-rock album. Dom Martin goes his own way, right from the start. ‘Hello In There’ is a dreamy, zephyr-like opener, Martin’s folkie acoustic guitar picking
|Dom Martin gets electrified
Pic by Tony Cole
As on his previous album A Savage Life, at times he draws on some John Martyn-like Celtic folk stylings in his own distinctive way, as on ‘Government’ and ‘The Fall’. The former marries glistening acoustic guitar chords and a halting drumbeat to Martin’s gruff but sensitive vocal, as he intones a weary, mantra-like lyric about how “It’s time to call it a day” until the song stalls like an unwound clock. Meanwhile ‘The Fall’ progresses from isolated, frost-bright strums of guitar into glittering picking like a winter stream, accompanying Martin’s patient, drawn-out vocals. Has he overdubbed guitar parts to create the intricate guitar-scape that develops? I dunno, but it sure sounds like there’s a whole lot of picking going on.
Things get more obviously bluesy on a few tracks. ‘Daylight I Will Find’ has a rootsy vibe, as Martin rolls out tumbling acoustic blues guitar over a simple thudding beat, creating a swaying, hypnotic feel decorated by a few slide guitar fills, while he delivers a characterful vocal, full of good phrasing, about how “It’s been a long old road to ruin / Daylight I will find”. ‘Howlin’’ has an old-fashioned Delta blues feel, with prickling-and-pointing electric guitar over snappily shuffling drums, creating something jaunty and irresistible. ‘Buried In The Hail’ itself is a brooding, atmospheric affair that combines restrained electric guitar and Martin’s gruffest vocal, rumbling away in the murk of a stormy night, in a manner akin to a distant cousin of Zeppelin’s ‘Bring It On Home’. And ‘Lefty 2 Guns’ is absorbing blues storytelling, with a simple, looping guitar line, hesitant bass, and dragging drums, until Martin’s gritty guitar takes off into SRV-ish territory with some scurrying soloing.
Martin can pack a punch too when he wants to though, as on ‘Belfast Blues’, on which his dirty, fuzzy guitar describes a ringing, revolving figure over a stomping drum rhythm that gradually acquires more character as it develops into a driving shuffle, while Martin groans out the vocal and adds dashes of slide. On ‘Unhinged’, meanwhile, he cranks out some barbed, spiky guitar with squeals of added emphasis, crunches into a classic three chord progression at the end of each verse, before the guitar and drums start slamming into each other with controlled aggression, as a precursor to our Dom goes off on a soloing jaunt with Celtic undertones.
In the midst of all this there’s also a startling, sui generis cover of the Patsy Cline hit ‘Crazy’, which sounds like it’s been relocated from Nashville to a smoky Parisian cellar, with just twinkling guitar notes to accompany Martin’s slow, Tom Waits-like vocal, eventually giving way to some Gary Moore-like electric guitar divertissements over splashes of drums.
It may sound from some of this like there’s nothing dramatic happening here. No crackerjack electric guitar show-offery. No bouts of epic, cinematic grandeur. No wailing vocals. And that’s true – but at the same time everything is happening. Like some musical Jedi, Dom Martin casts a spell and draws you into his web. Buried In The Hail is the sound of a special talent.
Buried In The Hail is out now on Forty Below Records.