UK lap steel and slide blues guitarist Martin Harley gained a good deal of recognition with his 2013 album Mojo Fix. Live At Southern Ground, the follow up was recorded “live” (no audience as far as we can gather) in Nashville’s Southern Ground Studios with double bass player Daniel Kimbro after the pair met up and jammed at a Tennessee festival. Almost a spur of the moment decision then, the album was recorded in one day with Harley playing regular, resonator and lap top (Hawaiian style) guitars with Kimbro slapping the big fiddle.
As such it’s a really fine slice of acoustic blues, well recorded and definitely an album that will please anyone who recalls Taj Mahal in his acoustic prime or the many finger picking wizards from the sixties folk boom who peppered their sets with blues covers. Harley writes the majority of the songs with a fine handle on the classic blues rhetoric while his guitar playing is at times mesmerising and vocally he answers that age-old question as to whether white men can sing the blues with some aplomb. The interaction between him and Kimbro’s nimble bass playing is a delight with some passages demanding to be replayed as one decides which instrument to concentrate on. Together they have a similar sort of musical telepathy to that of the late John Martyn with the great Danny Thompson.
Acknowledging his roots Harley covers Lead Belly’s Goodnight Irene and Blind Willie Johnson’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine while a cover of Tom Waits’ Chocolate Jesus is given a razor edged slide guitar thrust which takes the song into acoustic Led Zep territory. The album ends with an uncredited song that harks back to Johnson’s Dark was The Night, Cold Was The Ground with its sinister slide playing laid over some sombre and spine tingling double bass bowing. It’s a hidden track so if you do get the album wait for it at the end, it will blow you away.