12 O'Clock Track: John Martyn's grizzled-man folk jam "Over the Hill"


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John Martyn didn't die on this day, but I'm going with the singer-songwriter's "Over the Hill" for our 12 O'Clock Track because I've been listening to the album it's taken from, 1973's Solid Air, like crazy lately. The album is a cross between a number of my favorite 70s grizzled man/jazzbo/weirdo touchstones: Nick Drake, John Cale circa Paris 1919, Tim Buckley, and Van Morrison's 1974 album Veedon Fleece. Martyn is an unbelievable guitarist, capable of employing frisky blues licks, plucky fingerpicking, and elegant strumming whenever it suits the melody and emotional undercurrent of a song. His voice has some of Drake's soft baritone, but he can also go for the glottal soul-blues hybrids of guys like Morrison and Richard Thompson. Actually, Thompson makes a rare appearance on mandolin on "Over the Hill," a song with a double meaning: going over a physical hill toward home, and being worn out from a lifetime of being on the road and partying. The song has a Rod Stewart Every Picture Tells a Story vibe, which means it's the kind of thing about which the staff of early 70s Creem would wax poetic. It's mostly just Martyn singing against his acoustic guitar, with Thompson seriously jamming out on the mandolin John Paul Jones-style. Incidentally, Martyn never quite achieved significant recognition stateside, but he was kind of a big deal in the UK, where he influenced a whole generation of musicians who connected with his introspective, occasionally haunting lyrics and jazz-folk-blues fusions. You can especially hear traces of his longer, meditative, spacious tracks in the work of later-period Talk Talk. YouTube and Spotify versions are below the jump.


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