On The Cobbles

John Martyn’s 22nd studio album begins with the most guttural count-in in recording history, a big, rallying holler to herald Baby Come Home, a Frankie Miller penned slab of gruff Memphis bar blues which makes Tom Waits sound like Nick Drake. But Martyn is better renowned for his subtle touch and much of the rest of On the Cobbles is an exercise in restraint. A muted trumpet here, a hint of Hammond organ there. Despite the presence of Paul Weller on one track, nothing disrupts the understated mood. The broody blues of Ghosts and the blithe folk rock lilt of One For the Road make for charming company but, after a while, understated becomes prostrated and not even a guest vocal from gospel legend Mavis Staples can rouse Martyn’s drowsy cover of Leadbelly’s Goodnight Irene.

Fiona Shepherd
The Scotsman
23 April 2004