Dusting Off... John Martyn's Solid Air
What is it?
Released in 1973, Solid Air is the sixth album by singer-songwriter John Martyn. Often billed as a 'folk jazz' album, Solid Air takes in a range of influences including blues, jazz, rock and folk and weaves them into one smooth, chilled-out collection of acoustic guitar-led songs. From a career that spanned 40 years and produced a staggering 21 studio albums, Solid Air is often considered Martyn's finest record.
Featuring a title track that was written in tribute to his friend Nick Drake, the album is packed with beautifully crafted songs that relax and reinvigorate, but it also contains moments that are surprisingly powerful for solo acoustic performances.
One case in point is 'I'd Rather Be The Devil', a dark, bluesey rendition of a song by blues legend Skip James, originally titled 'Devil Got My Woman'. Martyn uses the simple set up of voice and an acoustic guitar with generous helpings of delay to great efect, producing a raw and powerful performance for one of the album's highights. (The deluxe edition also contains a live version which is, arguably, even better).
Other highlights include the mellow, soulful groove of the title track and the gentle, melodic 'May You Never', a song which became something of a signature tune for the John Martyn and was a regular feature in his live sets.
Probably our favourite moment on the album though is the closing track, called simply 'Easy Blues', but sometimes known as 'Jelly Roll Blues' thanks to its lyric about a baker making Martyn's favourite pastry-based snack. It's a light-hearted end to an album that, while being very relaxed in tempo, contains some pretty intense moments.
Why should I revisit?
If the weather forecasters are to be believed – and we have no reason to doubt their infinite wisdom – there's a hurricane headed for UK shores this coming Sunday, so it's likely the barbeque will be back in the shed this weekend as many of us will be stuck indoors. With that being the case, we really couldn't think of a better album for a rainy Sunday morning to brighten your day than Solid Air.
Who will enjoy it?
Fans of Martyn will already know the record well, but anyone who enjoys craftsmanship in songwriting and a rootsy, chilled ambience will find plenty to like about this album.
Similarly, if you enjoyed our recent John Fullbright session, this album should be right up your street.