Martin Harley & Daniel Kimbro - "Live At Southern Ground" 

Review By Aron Radford

"Live At Southern Ground" is one of those releases that has a honest simplicity about it. You would be mistaken if you thought this recording was made after a coast to coast 50 date stateside tour, but it wasn't. It sounds so fluid and honed that only such a prolonged period of perfecting each song night after night could result in such a cohesive recording right? Wrong! this record was recorded in a handful of hours in one day from two musicians that had only ever played together twice before! Recorded at the 'Southern Ground' studios in Nashville (hence the title) out of a perchance meeting between Martin Harley and upright bass player Daniel Kimbro. The two musicians had only played together a few times prior to this recording. It's a marvellous thought isn't it? that two musicians like Martin and Daniel posses this level of intuition and musical craft that makes what should be a technical challenging and time demanding situation seem like a Friday night jam session in Martin's garden shed. Possibly that's how they approached it and thought if it works it will be something truly special, if it doesn't well there would be some good B-Side material for the future, trust me it's the former! Billed as a 'live' album it was in actuality recorded face to face in real time in a controlled studio environment and so is sonically clean while keeping the "in the moment” aura abundantly evident. The chemistry between the two highly experienced musicians is clearly strong and deep. The sublime double bass improvs and groves are effortlessly and intuitively weaved in and out Martin's reso and lap steel melodies, the whole ensemble has a sophisticated unplugged acoustic blues vibe to it.

The song selection for this album could easily be described as an unofficial 'Best of Martin Harley'. All the self penned stage show favourites are here sitting along side the cherry picked covers tipping his hat to his heroes that you often forget are actually covers as Martin makes them his own by skewing the arrangement just the right side of the originals to make them sound fresh and new. Harley penned favourites like, “Cardboard King”, "Winter Coat”, "Love In The Afternoon” and “Money Don’t Matter” sit perfectly along side his arrangements of blues standard such as the Blind Willie Johnson “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”, Tom Wait’s “Chocolate Jesus” and of course the splendid Kelly Joe Phelps slide version of “Good Night Irene”. Martin’s voice has in my opinion never sounded so good on a record as he delivers each line with just the right amount of controlled soulful emotion and natural bluesy rasp. As a collection of songs these really work together as they reflect two musicians at the top of their game really engaging themselves in musical gratification. The air bristles with controlled abandon which gives us all the best of both worlds a live album that sounds like a studio album, ironic as it is both simultaneously. Martin plays the Weissenborn in a manner which always mesmerises me. His hands seem to glide effortlessly back and forth across the neck with graceful theatrical form. Weaving and blending melodies and bass runs the deft touches and sharp staccato punctuations are trade mark Harley and always deliver pleasing ear candy for any lap steel fan. Martin is arguably the best Weissenborn player in the UK and has been for many years and this release only underlines his stature even further as Britons best steel on steel blues ambassador. (PS, keep an ear out for secret hidden bonus track)

A gem of a record for all blues and hollowneck fans.