Appalachia and Texas meets Southwest France.
Lockdown has inspired many artists to write new material during the past eighteen months or so, but it is unlikely that many americana albums were written during this time in southwest France. Despite having her musical roots deep in Appalachia, Oklahoma, and Texas – she is known as ‘Texas Martha’ to her friends – Martha Fields spends a great deal of her time touring Europe and has released an album of country songs that truly reflect these roots.
With songs about bars and little red roads and hillbillies and train whistles, this album is packed with guitars, Hammond organ, mandolin, fiddle, dobro and harmonica, produced by someone who really knows their craft. Title track opens the record and with a gentle acoustic strum, Hammond and pedal steel guitar and singing of “rocky dusty road” and “sun burning my head” the scene is set for heading south indeed. ‘Let The Phoenix Rise’ is a spooky country blues number and country RnB ‘In My Garden’ has excellent harmonica and fiddle to help chug it along.
Hipsters are most definitely banned from ‘Lavada’s Lounge’, which can be found down that little red road (natch), where “everybody knows your name at your favourite watering hole/boogie on down to Lavada’s Lounge”. Twangy guitar introduces ‘Death Rattle’ supported by plenty of dobro, and ‘Hillbilly Babylon’ tells tale of ancestral folks coming ‘here’ in 1809 and clearing trees and doing things that country folk did back then. Picking guitar, banjo and fiddle drive the pacy ‘Do More Right’ calling for us all to stop the “dark forces rising/in times like this/we gotta do more right.”
‘Yellow Roses’ has a touch of Midland about it, a more than decent country song and there’s a very pleasant surprise in the bluesy ‘High Shelf Mama’ where after some admirable dobro and fiddle, out of nowhere – horns! The album closes with ‘J’entends Siffler Le Train/500 Miles’ sung in French and English which translates as ‘I hear the train whistling’ and which perfectly suits to close this collection of fine country songs.
The musicianship on this album is of a very high standard and the mix of instruments keep the listener completely engaged. There is almost a kind of innocence to some of the songs, picking very obvious country targets but that just adds to the overall enjoyment of the record. There is certainly a simple charm to the album but it is most definitely a 21st-century record. Vive l’americana!