Martin Harley and his authentic, soulful blues were surely an experience to remember at The Barrel House on Saturday 8th December. The crowd, seemingly in awe of his talent, Harley possessing the power to both captivate an audience and make them go wild with adoration and excitement, as his increasing passion and mastery of the slide guitar came out to play.
The discovery of Martin Harley’s repertoire was intriguing to say the least. His most recent album, ‘Static In The Wires’, released in February 2017, was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee. It is clear that his passion for country and blues music has resonated throughout his life and bled into the worlds of all that come to see his shows, leaving the audience both touched and uplifted by Harley’s extraordinary sense of honesty and charisma.
Despite the hustle and bustle of a December night, somehow, as Harley sat centre stage, the atmosphere changed, earnestly waiting to hear another heartfelt song. ‘Postcard from Hamburg’ utterly delved into the deep, soulful quality of his music, showcasing his sensitive and compelling lyrics, ‘drunk as a poor man and heavy as the rain’, a lyric that seemed to resonate and show Harley’s innate ability to construct emotional and dynamic change within his performance.
His set up of acoustic guitar and Weissenborn lap guitar, a remarkable instrument originating in Hawaii, effortlessly showed off his phenomenal slide guitar melodies, encompassing poly-rhythms and contrasting gracious melodies, accompanying his voice, fluid and effortless, yet strong. Harley was inspiring. ‘Winter Coat’ from album ‘Drumrolls for Somersaults’ was hopeful and resilient, perhaps an ode to a love, and utterly captivating, surrounded in luscious, rich Latin scales and tonalities, with a driving folk and blues edge.
The performance was passionate, honest and simply incredible. The atmosphere was ever evolving with each song, some sorrowful, delicately noting loss and despair, while others thrive in passion, joy and hopefulness. Martin Harley was sublime, somewhat enchanting, combining traditional blues style rhythm guitar, while interweaving Indian raga scales and Latin ambience, such as in the intriguing ‘Cardboard King’. It is clear that he touched the lives and hearts of many, with such a compelling and skilful performance, certainly creating fond memories and sheer musical bliss for all those lucky enough to be in his humble presence.