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Martin Harley Band - Drumrolls for Somersaults

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 11 / 5 / 2010

Martin Harley Band - Drumrolls for Somersaults
Label: Villainous Records
Format: CD


Unique and convincing combination of jazz, blues and country on third album from Surrey-based trio, the Martin Harley Band

Well there’s no doubting that as well as being an extremely tight three-piece band who straddle a variety of styles that guitarist Martin Harley certainly knows his way around his chosen instrument. To get the famous friends who helped on the recording out of the way early so we can concentrate on just how good this trio would be even without them we must just mention that ‘Drumrolls For Somersaults’ was engineered by Mike Cave (Charlatans, Echo and theBunnymen and Elvis Costello) and produced by Nigel Stonier maybe best known for his work with Thea Gilmore who adds backing vocals to one song here the Stonier/Harley collaboration ‘Hand To Hold’. Third album in and it’s not easy to pigeonhole the Martin Harley Band. They still have their collective feet in so many camps. As usual they touch upon jazz, blues and country and manage to make a sound that is uniquely their own. A lot of this, without wishing to take any credit away from bassist Jay Carter or drummer Pete Swatton, is down to the incredible talent who is Martin Harley. Always doing things on his own terms it would appear without giving any concessions to what is currently hip or fashionable he takes his band from one style to another with ease without ever loosing that uniqueness. Harley is not only one of the best guitarists this country currently has to offer but he is blessed with a singing voice that is exceptional as well. If he sounds a little rough around the edges when he tackles the blues-inspired songs like ‘Take What You Want’ then it’s only because that’s what suits that particular song. Listen for comparison to that Stonier co-write, ‘Hand to Hold’ where a tender more emotive Harley appears. Despite sterling work from Thea Gilmore on backing vocals the song belongs wholly to Harley. That the next song on the CD is the aforementioned tougher ‘Take What You Want’ and that the two songs naturally flow one after the other proves that Harley can master any type of music he wants to. Drummer Swatton plays the Russian balalaika on ‘Winter Coat’ which again shows another side to the band and proves that all three band members are more than average singers. There are many bands that bravely try to cover a whole range of styles on their albums and, of course, that is only to be admired but very few manage to make such a brilliant job of it as The Martin Harley Band do. The band is often described as having a ‘British Americana’ sound and while there is little doubt that it’s hard to believe from the music that he makes that Harley hails from Surrey that description doesn’t really do the band justice. The Martin Harley Band are simply just too good and too different to ever find the right tag for. Even after repeated listens it still surprises that Harley’s vocals can cover so many styles so convincingly. While much is made of his guitar skills and quite rightly so, his vocals really are outstanding too be it on a blues-belter or a touching ballad. Ten songs over 35 minutes is an ideal way to leave you wanting more of the same and hitting that repeat button. Hasn’t anyone ever told Harley that the third album is meant to be the difficult one?

Track Listing:-
1 Love In The Afternoon
2 Automatic Life
3 Darcy's Car
4 Drumrolls For Somersaults
5 Hand To Hold
6 Take What You Want
7 Just Passing Thru
8 Winter Coat
9 Cowley Road
10 Honey Bee

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