Martin Stephenson And The Daintees now have six studio albums completed and many more solo outings by Martin yet for some reason they’ve always fell shy of being on the top table. They started with such promise with the epic ‘Boat To Bolivia‘ album back in 1986 and continued to produce albums of quality. Now backed by Universal / Absolute Music via his own Barbaraville label he’s come back with an album, ‘California Star‘, to match that initial potential. Maybe one day he’ll be seen in the same light as my previous article artist, Elvis Costello, as they do have many similarities in their music, but only time will tell. This album may hopefully address that.
The album lead track ‘The Ship‘ is a soul fuelled track that only someone from the North East could embellish on us. It has a feel of Gill Scott Heron come Stanley Clarke laid back approach to it. He even manages to name check Jimmy Pursey of Sham 69. Whereas ‘The Streets Of San Sebastian‘ you can hear some wonderful acoustic guitar work and along with a riveting story that unfolds. There was an occasional whistling that kept me waiting for the sound of a whip to crack and dulcet tones of Clint Eastwood to chirp up. The piano takes centre stage for ‘Power That Is Greater‘ and shows the diversity of this artist. So come on Jools Holland get them on your show ‘Later’, as I’m sure you’d love to play on this song. “…I said… I’m not an orphan anymore“, he’s right there, as he’ll again be adopted into the hearts of music lovers.
Next we have the title track ‘California Star‘, probably one of his most accessible songs to date. His voice just floats out of the speakers along with some slide guitar licks spread over the top, that makes it so radio friendly. You can download this song for free from his bandcamp page. ‘Ready To Move On‘ brings you oh so abruptly to life with the harmonica wrestling with Martin’s voice to grab your attention. This is northern blues Daintees style reminiscent of the cool Doctor Feelgood at their best. Stripped back with basically an acoustic guitar and violin, ‘Boy To Man‘, again shows they’re not afraid to introduce our ears to more different instruments.
‘Something Special‘ is again a lighter affair his whole attitude is as if a great weight has been lifted from his mind. “…my heart is flying free“is sung as if he’s a teenager in love again. Building on this new-found air of tranquillity ‘Silverbird‘ has me thinking for some reason of being in a hot air balloon floating over the countryside as he sings in praise of nature. I’ve mentioned other artists that he reminds me of but ‘Long Way To Go‘ could so easily be a Dire Straits song when in their prime and I’m sure record sales wise they’d be happy if it did do as well. It’s rousing and has all those previously mentioned instruments back to keep your senses amused.
The penultimate tune ‘Sweet Cherwine‘ is sit on your porch rocking in your chair whilst clapping along ditty, is the best way to express it. Whereas ‘I’m In Love For The First Time‘, has a reggae tinged beat to it always a good way to end an album. So if you’ve not heard Martin Stephenson And The Daintees before maybe you’ll love them for the first time too. You know when you’ve heard a good record as it finishes all too quickly relatively speaking. They play live relentlessly if you read their Twitter feed so I hope this will give them the recognition they so whole heartedly deserve. Full of beans this album, 9/10.