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john martyn & john smith

February 7, 2007

Last Saturday, I finally got to see my musical hero John Martyn at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm.

In my experience, out of every ten people, about nine have never heard of John Martyn and one thinks he’s just about the best thing ever. I don’t think I’ve never met anyone who knows his music who doesn’t think he’s pretty great. If you haven’t already, please acquaint yourself with his music at the first opportunity. As long as you have working ears and a human soul, you will probably like it.

In fact, never mind that. Listen to him right now, playing on TV in about 1973:


The years haven’t treated him so well — he’s lost a leg, his voice is now probably huskier and certainly more slurred than Tom Waits — but his singing voice is still achingly beautiful, and even despite some rather ill-advised and unfortunate saxophone-playing, the concert was almost unthinkably good.

Although I would have been happy just seeing John Martyn, the support act — John Smith — was a total bonus. I’d actually been quite wanting to see him since I came across his website last year, but was unprepared for the extent of his greatness. He played the whole set unaccompanied — just him and an acoustic guitar on a stage that seemed several sizes too large — but he was great, and his final song, Winter, was just surpassingly brilliant, and essentially unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Today I found a video (below) of him on YouTube, and I watched it over and over until I had to leave the house. I can’t help but feel that he is a potential John Martyn of the future. Anyway, I’m planning to see him play at a smaller venue this coming Sunday, and hopefully get a copy of his CD too, so we shall see…

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