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CD Review
Eddie Martin Band
"Fires and Floods"
Blueblood 004
14 tracks 66 mins
By Gordon Baxter
"You've got to play the blues with a feeling/Or don't play the blues at all" sings Eddie Martin on "Blues With a Feeling" (not the Little Walter tune), and "Fires and Floods" is certainly packed full of emotion and energy. Eddie's songs deal with the tortured state of his soul in recent times, covering standard Blues topics of love, work, and life in general. In fact, "Fires and Floods" should come with a warning that it is liable to seriously stir the emotions of anyone who listens to it.

Don't be fooled by the acoustic opening on the title track. The rest of the band crash in shortly afterwards on a raucous Blues, driven by a walking bass, and some tremendously muddy wailing harp. It is a good taster for the levels of passion and intensity that are to follow, and is immediately followed up by some stylish slide playing on "Blues With a Feeling."

As with all the best British Blues bands -- the band has collectively and individually featured in the UK Blues awards nominations for three years running -- the original songs (13 of the tracks) can't all be neatly lumped together under one style. Instead, a range of styles are borrowed and adapted, rather than slavishly reproduced. So there's a mix of Texas (a la T-Bone Walker complete with horns), Mississippi Delta, Chicago and New Orleans influences to be found. To make things more interesting too, the Eddie Martin Band has three different guises, each of which make an appearance here. The basic line-up is a trio (6 tracks), but there is also the Eddie Martin Big Band (the trio plus horns, usually featuring veteran Dick Heckstall-Smith and keyboards -- on 7 tracks), and the Eddie Martin one-man band (1 track). It doesn't matter which version is on display, the result is always top quality Blues.

The Big Band makes its first appearance on "Answerphone Blues", followed by "Prickly as a Porcupine" Paddy Milner, providing some classy 'Fess style piano, combines with Eddie on harp on what starts out as a barrelhouse number. When the horn section fires in, though, things really start to swing. The tempo doesn't let up on "Rebound Blues" which follows it, only this time the horns lead the way from the start.

The only cover version is Freddie King's "Hideaway," which is a little more staccato than the original. It is given the big band treatment though, with the Hammond organ and horn section combining to add a funky edge. There is a brief moment, where Eddie does the chicken scratch, when it almost falls apart, but it's quickly recovered almost before you can notice it.

The passion and intensity reach fever pitch on "See Red Blues" where the delivery conjures up R.L. Burnside at his most potent. Eddie manages to combine some manic slide guitar with simultaneously playing rack mounted harp to create a feeling that's so primitive it could just have crawled out of the swamp. This track is worth the price of the whole CD, but if you're around when Eddie gets the see red blues, stay outta his way!

"Fires and Floods" is a fine CD by a band in top form, and I expect to see it featured in the UK Blues awards later this year.

You can order "Fires and Floods" from the Eddie Martin web site.

This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.

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