“Autumn” - Martin Matthews (NE England-based musician)
“Autumn” is a debut solo album by Martin Matthews, a resident of County Durham (NE England) who has a very long track record as a master of the guitar, banjo and all things fretted, and as a participant in bands and on other recordings. Out of many musical involvements, Martin has been a member of NE bands The Champion String Band, Cuig and The Rub as well as C&W and Swing-themed bands, has played for a great many ceilidhs, has been a tutor on the Newcastle Folk Music Degree course and, way back, won the solo banjo competition at the 1979 All-Ireland Fleadh Ceoil (well, I think I’ve got this right…). Not least, he has consistently graced the local session scene.
Martin writes: “This album is made up of multi track recordings taken over the last six to seven years featuring me playing mainly my own compositions on a mixture of tenor banjo, acoustic and electric guitar, cittern, bouzouki and mandolin…various tunings have been employed, but as a rule tenor banjo is tuned to the standard Irish tuning of GDAE, mandolin the same, guitar in standard EADGBE and (also) CFCGDG low to high, cittern GDAEA and bouzouki GDAD.” He goes on to credit instrument-makers, co-musicians and helpers and particularly Sean Taylor who co-produced the album with him.
Martin’s music can fairly be described as ‘Celtic’ without any of the factors that have given ‘Celtic music’ a somewhat iffy image. It is based soundly in Irish, but accommodates Scottish, Shetland and Northumbrian idioms with no trouble and has taken on board notably American and jazz influences, as well as some more exotic Latin / Mediterranean, gypsy and Eastern European ones. These, where they are not the main fare, flavour the more ‘traditional’-type tracks in an instinctively integrated manner that is light-years away from slapping some kind of novelty treatment on tunes for its own sake.
Martin, like many in County Durham, has Irish family roots. Irish communities in the County established themselves or notably expanded in the mid-c19 when Famine emigration happened to coincide with major developments in this area’s industrialisation. In particular, iron and steel was a new industry, not in being previously non-existent but in the unprecedented scale of its operations occasioned by substantial mineral discoveries, new railway connections and improved technical processes. The Irish gravitated to new steel towns such as Consett and Middlesbrough (and many others) where they stood to face less competition and antagonism than may have been their lot in the coal-mining communities. County Durham dwindled as an employment mecca for immigrants a very long time ago (though the recent Polish influx was impressive), so there has not been continuing Irish immigration on this kind of scale. Hence, while Catholic, family and personal affiliations with Ireland remain, the music of the c19 immigrants - if any - ceased to be ubiquitous, if it ever was that. However, players such as John Doonan and other c20 immigrants kept Irish music alive in the North-East in the years before the folk revival and the increased uptake by local players of whatever background.
Martin and certain fellow-musicians in the area (whether on or off this album), of whatever background, have thus got into Irish music because they discovered it, not because they were brought up with it. Accordingly, a kind of converts‘ fervour is in their music, a sense of taking very little for granted: they have thoroughly studied technique, approaches and repertoire, and aimed very high. Their music is characterised by firm rhythms, a definite drive and clearly articulated melodies. Among influences, the bracing tunes of Shetland are significant and even more so the Swing guitar style of Shetland’s ’Peerie’ Willie Johnson, which caught on particularly in Scotland and also in North-East England, at any rate among those with the skill to pull it off. The latter included the late Tich Richardson of The Boys Of The Lough, whose brother Dave happened to be a pioneer of the playing of the mandolin family in the area; they, and the others in the band, were familiar with the Durham sessions. Meanwhile the Inflections from various American musics, whencesoever learned by the musicians, are quite congruent with the fact that America has haunted and beckoned North-Easterners for a very long time: very many emigrated there, and many postwar musicians have taken the chance to visit and play there.
Favourite tracks of mine include the lovely, drifting Maria’s Waltz; the Steel Reel set, now well-established in local sessions; the shores-of-the-Mediterranean-sounding Aycliffe Richard’s Waltz; Martin’s own The Lerwick Reel; and the jigs on Track 1, played with the attack of Scottish pipe jigs and having a lot of that feel. Meanwhile, the bluegrass-y O’Hanlon’s Crooked Road Reel could slot right in to the soundtrack of “Easy Rider”…
Martin Matthews can be contacted via:
Cuig Music, 1 Prospect Terrace, Lanchester, Durham DH7 0HF
I hope to append information about composers, other musicians playing on this album, and anything else that may come to mind as relevant.
“Autumn” - Martin Matthews
On this album, Martin Matthews plays tenor banjo, acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin and cittern.
Sean Taylor plays fretless and fretted 5-string bass, keyboards, percussion and acoustic guitar.
All arrangements are by Matthews / Taylor.
The guest musicians on this album are:
Paul Archer………….. ..Fiddle
All tunes are composed by Martin Matthews except:
Dan’s Hands (Caitriona’s Fancy)……………………Dan Hands
The Glass Fiddle……………….Martin Matthews / Paul Archer
Aycliffe Richard’s Waltz………Martin Matthews / Paul Archer
The Shooting Star…………………………………………..Paul Archer
The Gluepot……………………………………………Norman Holmes
The White House……………………………………Norman Holmes
Sully’s No. 6………………………………………………….Tony Sullivan
The album was engineered by Sean Taylor and produced by Matthews / Taylor.
All tracks were recorded between 2004 / 2010 by Sean Taylor at Lanchester, Co. Durham, and Seghill and Cramlington in Northumberland.
NOTE: Maria’s Waltz on this album is quite distinct from one already in the Tunes base - Maria’s (jig) - which one gets if one clicks on Maria’s in this album’s ‘Details’ list.
I might add, The Steel Reel is called after a place in Northumberland, not the metal!
Corrected e-mail address for Martin Matthews:-
The e-mail contact address I gave above is defective.
The correct address is as follows:-
“Wall to Wall… Lindisfarne to Walltown” - Album by Martin Matthews
“Wall to Wall… Lindisfarne to Walltown” is a more recent album by Martin Matthews, and has been entered in the Recordings section with the following url: https://thesession.org/recordings/5121