Layng Martine Jr. – Music Man (Bloodshot Records)
Dating back to the early 1960s Layng Martine Jr. has written songs for a slew of musicians across various genres, from Elvis Presley and Reba McEntire to The Pointer Sisters and Trisha Yearwood. A member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and a Grammy nominated songwriter, even though millions have heard his words, few have actually heard him sing them. Until now.
Martine’s son, Tucker, has had a pretty admirable career himself as a Portland-based producer and studio owner who has worked with an impressive list of indie greats including R.E.M., Modest Mouse, The Decemberists, Mavis Staples, and Neko Case to name just a few in an impressive long list. The one artist he’d yet to produce though was his dad. What started as an inspired Christmas gift to his father years ago – bringing his dad into the studio to produce him singing his own songs – has morphed into a full-length album, backed by some stellar musicians including R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, k.d. lang, folk singer Laura Veirs and jazz guitarist Bill Frisell. The result is a wonderful album that is as timeless as it is enjoyable.
Across a dozen tracks, from the 1974 penned “Music Man,” a satisfying folk/Americana take on the track, through to the brief but beautiful (clocking in at just two minutes) “Too Young For Paradise,” the senior Martine not only proves himself to be a fantastic songwriter but also has a pretty impressive voice begging the question why he never had a bigger career as a full time singer.
All of the songs were selected by Tucker (who also plays drums on the record) and does a remarkable job digging through the decades – the oldest song here was written in 1964, the most recent in 2012 – highlighting some of the strongest tracks, not simply sticking to the ones attached to the biggest musicians. One of the best songs here, “Try Me Again,” was written 1975 and recorded by The Kendalls and Jody Miller and the gospel tinged “I Can’t Be What You Want Me to Be,” written 11 years ago, is heartbreaking in its sincerity.
An album that took a lifetime to come about yet still manages to sound timeless, Music Man is a strong record that proves sometimes the best person to sing the song is the songwriter himself.
Find the album on band camp here: https://layngmartinejr.bandcamp.com/album/music-man