Western Mail 26th Jan 06
The reputation of this astonishing artist certainly precedes him, but nothing had prepared those of us previously unacquainted with his work for the sheer strength and impact of our evening with Martyn. The Penarth-born, now Cardiff-based singer/guitarist has developed over the last couple of decades into a veritable one-man music industry: he's released 22 albums, and toured tirelessly world-wide, gathering a fanatical following for his forthright yet modest on- and off-stage persona, and his matchless brand of songcraft, in which accessibly memorable melodies support elegantly-crafted lyrics that reveal his tender understanding of (among other things) relationships, fatherhood, death, and the female psyche, as well as his passionately righteous indignation at routine social injustice, political chicanery, cult celebrity, and endemic hypocrisy. But Martyn's no self-righteous protest singer or preacher: rather, he's the epitome of the common man, albeit a highly evolved one, with a richly life-affirming message for us all, one that might well constitute a template for the conduct of life in these troubled times. And the strength of his (unobtrusive) religious faith surely contributes to the the robustly easy-going confidence that he exudes ... enough, perhaps, to give the determined agnostics among us cause for reflection ...
Armed with three guitars - two acoustic and an electric - plus harmonicas and pedals galore, Martyn's show is full-on from the get-go. He packed 25 songs into his two sets, including everything from his universally acclaimed new CD Deep Blue (the anthemic 'Can't Breathe' ['the killer Coldplay anthem that never was', proclaims the review in Mojo], the heart-melting 'I Would Never Do Anything In This World To Hurt You', and 'Proud Valley Boy', his reminder of Paul Robeson's unlikely role in the relief of Welsh miners' poverty, were standouts), and a tantalizing trawl through his extensive back catalogue. Despite an end-of-tour cold, Martyn's voice was hugely emotive, a whisper one moment, a soulful roar the next, while his guitar work's an essay in robust, unflashy functionality. His personal sound-man worked subtle magic at the desk, pulling out vocal echoes at the meaningful juncture ... the whole evening positively shone with the accumulation of Martyn's years on and off the road, honing and perfecting the skills with which he's blessed.
No one left the Talbot less than charmed, inspired, and thrilled (and probably spoken to personally) by Martyn Joseph, nor, to judge by the throng around the merchandise table, did anybody exit empty-handed. This had been a very special night, and if everyone in the audience tells their friends about it, a full house for his return visit - already being negotiated - looks likely. Comparisons are invidious, but we suggest you miss this man at your peril - in the crowded field of solo performers, Martyn Joseph is quite simply in a class of one.
I first saw Martyn Joseph live in 1988 and have followed him ever since - he had a bit of a dodgy association with Sony in the early 90's but for my money has turned out some of the best protest and love songs ever.