“Now and again, you stumble across a rare talent of such sheer genius that you wonder whether what you have witnessed can possibly be for real. Dom Martin is one such talent.” (Blues in Britain)
Dom Martin’s new album, A Savage Life, puts him squarely in the musical spotlight and sees him fulfill the potential that his acclaimed 2019 album, Spain to Italy, pointed to. The Northern Irishman is a multiple UK and European Blues Award winner who seems equally at home playing the acoustic blues of Blind Blake and the blues-rock of Rory Gallagher. Add to that his expressive vocals, and you have in Dom Martin the real deal, someone who’s paid his dues busking on the streets and trying to get gigs so he could pay his heating bills. Quite a journey from that to supporting Eric Gales on his forthcoming UK tour. [for Dom’s remarkable story, check out our great interview with him here.]
The album features ten songs written by Martin and was produced by Grammy Nominated Chris O’Brien, and Graham Murphy. The songs, says Martin, are another part of his life’s story and says he’s proud of the way they’ve turned out.
So he should be. His guitar work and vocals throughout are stellar and the arrangements and musicianship from the rest of the band, which includes Dave Thompson on bass and Laurence McKeown on drums, are excellent.
The album kicks off with the slow and heavy electric sound of Unsatisfied, where Martin’s growling vocals and fast single-note runs are much in evidence. There’s more than a passing resemblance to the Irish icon of blues guitar, Rory Gallagher here, as there is on one or two others, like 12 Gauge. Martin plays Gallagher songs in his live sets, taking pride in keeping his music alive, and you can hear a few Rory Gallagher songs (produced with the permission and endorsement of the Gallagher family) on Dom’s live album, “Savages.”
The album is all in a blues vein, but there is nice variety, with acoustic blues, rocking electric, and more gentle, jazzier numbers completing the mix. Blues on the Bay is a terrific, wee-hours-of-the-morning blues, Martin’s electric solo full of emotional pull, while The Man from Nowhere is a resonator rag-time tune full of old-timey vibe, complete with scratchy old record background sound. As Martin says, it’s his story so far – “a man from nowhere who nobody knows…a new kid’s got the blues.” I’d say after this album that story’s bound to change.
And in case there was any doubt about Martin’s guitar chops we get the three-minute instrumental of Maxwell Shuffle, full of fast and furious runs up and down the fret-board. Martin says the song is in honour of his friend “Flash” Gordon Maxwell who sadly passed away in 2021 while the album was being recorded. Martin calls it “a Celtic power trio shuffle” and feels that Rory Gallagher would have liked it. He’s probably right.
The album finishes with The Parting Glass, an arrangement of an old Scottish lament written around the 1760s, completing an excellent set of songs, where Dom Martin proves himself a fine inheritor of Rory Gallagher’s legacy, but more than that, a top-notch artist in his own right, with the vocal, guitar and song-writing chops to carve his own niche in the musical world.