Mar­tyn takes you to tough places

Mar­tyn Joseph Fri­day, Novem­ber 30 All Saints Church, Wok­ing­ham

The Wokingham Paper - - LEISURE - Peter Barre

THIS is the first time gui­tarist and singer-song­writer Mar­tyn Joseph has played Wok­ing­ham, as some­one in the crowd re­minded him. “It’s strange when peo­ple know my life bet­ter than I do.”

There’s a lot of in­ter­ac­tion at his gigs. At one point he asked for re­quests (and was in­un­dated with re­sponses). There’s also plenty of sin­ga­longs – the ti­tle track from his new al­bum, ‘Here Come the Young’, be­ing a good ex­am­ple. Dur­ing ‘Oh My Soul’ he walked off stage and played in the cen­tral aisle of the church, his gui­tar brush­ing the hair of those on the end of the pews. It doesn’t get more in­ti­mate than this.

This in­ti­macy is re­in­forced with songs about his wife (‘Sum­mer has a way of find­ing you’), his daugh­ter (‘Driv­ing her back to Lon­don’) and his son (‘Cardiff Bay’: ‘Took my son and his tear stained face out of Sun­day School/As Chapel Hymns be­gan to fade away’).

He’s a well-versed racon­teur, drop­ping tales be­tween songs with ease. Like the time he tracked down an 84-year old cab driver in Las Ve­gas (who he met two years pre­vi­ously) and in­vited him to his gig (‘Ve­gas’). Like play­ing in a Fa­ther & Son golf tour­na­ment for over 30 years at Bagshot but hav­ing to stop re­cently as his Dad suc­cumbed to the mists of de­men­tia (‘Noth­ing is lost in love’). Or the 12-hour road trips be­tween gigs in Canada that make him won­der at the world we in­habit and his sig­nif­i­cance in it all.

But Joseph hits the groove when he speaks on be­half of the marginalised and the voiceless. His char­ity, Let Your­self Trust, has gen­er­ated £250,000 for such groups since it was set up a cou­ple of years ago.

Whether it’s ‘I searched for you’ – “In the eyes of the bro­ken/I thought I saw your face” – or dig­ging into his Welsh roots with the 1831 Merthyr Tyd­fil ris­ing (‘Dic Pen­deryn (The Balled of Richard Lewis)’), Joseph has a deeply-felt de­sire for jus­tice. ‘Nye: Song for the NHS’ (for Aneurin Be­van, NHS founder) has the mem­o­rable cho­rus “The pur­pose of power is to give it away/This is my truth, tell me yours” but the killer line is ‘Go break your arm/See what it costs in New Or­leans’. Dur­ing ‘Lonely like Amer­ica’, Mar­tyn dis­played his af­fec­tion for Spring­steen, segue­ing into ‘Danc­ing in the dark’, ‘Born to run’ and ‘Born in the USA’ – all in one song (a first for me).

He also riffed the first line of U2’s

‘Streets’ dur­ing ‘Lux­ury of De­spair’. Both these artists speak from the per­spec­tive of in­tegrity and mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the world and Joseph is cer­tainly part of that great com­mu­nity.

A Mar­tyn Joseph gig will al­ways take you to some tough places, but he never lingers there. He is in­spired by the op­ti­mism and en­ergy of youth and by those who re­sist the pol­i­tics of fear with acts of kind­ness and non­vi­o­lent re­sis­tance. There is a bet­ter world out there, he as­sures us, and in our quest to find it we’re not alone.

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