Texas Martha AKA Marty Fields Galloway is certainly a long way from home on this album which is probably the first honky tonk album to be recorded in Bordeaux, France. Sure enough, she’s Texan through and through but she has a hankering for France and spends much of her time there and, much like a country music magnet, she’s attracted a hot shot bunch of continental players who together make up The House of Twang. These are guys who’ve done their homework, the rhythm section of Serge Samyn and Hervé Chiquet stoke the beat solidly while Lionel Duhaupas bends and twists and twangs his guitars and plays a mean pedal steel. Together they’re a formidable outfit with Galloway belting out her roadhouse songs but able also to rein it in and deliver some soulful country.
The album gets off to a great start with the rip snorting Born To Boogie, Galloway’s powerful voice galvanised by the curling pedal steel and twang fuelled guitar bursts over a pile driving rhythm; even her transition into French lyrics midway through, initially a surprise, works. Take You Down is in a similar vein, again the music is punchy and defiant as Galloway hymns the South but there’s a change in gear on the following title song which takes us away from the honky tonk and onto the freeway. There’s a brisk acoustic thrust to the song with harmonica (from Christophe Dupue) threading throughout while the pedal steel hums like a train coming along the tracks, altogether the sense is of the wide open road. A Lover’s Lane is more countrified, the pedal steel keening away as Galloway sings of the tribulations of a young girl suckered into a tryst and then judged. It’s a great song but the vocals are just a mite too powerful for the tender playing and the song could be better if there was a sense of hurt instead of defiance in her voice.
No problems however with Johanna, another sad luck song which is boosted by the organ playing of Vincent Samyn while Strike is a sinewy blues number with Martha ballsy as hell while the guitars snarl. The album closes with another foot to the pedal barrel house boogie on Gotta Move but before that there’s a brief excursion into Southern Gothic territory on the tremendous Do As You Are Told which comes across like the Violent Femmes backing Bobbie Gentry in a story penned by Flannery O’Connor.
Hopefully with Texas Martha berthed just across the channel we can hope to see her and her crack musicians in the UK at some point, Blabber’n’Smoke will keep you posted.