Joseph says of Whoever It Was. . ., his first Appleseed release and first new studio CD in five years, “I’d made a number of political points on various projects in the last few years, and this record just began to form in a more reflective way.” So rather than dwell on the specific, his themes here are universal – love and its bittersweet realities, the need for personal activism and hope despite the limitations of human nature – and winningly conveyed by his strong, yearning vocals and intimate acoustic accompaniment.
Unlike his five highly-produced Top 50 British chart hits and two CDs on the Sony label in the early ’90s, Martyn opted for minimal production on Whoever It Was. . . in a successful attempt to capture the passion and edge of his memorable live shows. Each of the eleven songs was recorded live in the studio by Martyn on vocals and acoustic guitar, then a little coloration – keyboards, a second guitar, cello, Martyn’s harmonica, occasional backing vocals – was sparingly added. With nine original songs (four of them co-written by longtime Joseph collaborator Stewart Henderson, a Liverpudlian poet), there is a unity of voice, lyrical outlook, and instrumental approach that links each track into an emotionally satisfying and thought-provoking whole.
Various aspects of love are addressed on the opening “Love Is,” a poetic list of love’s options, the exhausted “Every Little Sign,” and the celebratory “This Being Woman,” a rousing tribute to older women now invisible in our youth-cult society. The obligation and challenge of activism and self-determination are summoned in “Wake Me Up,” “Just Like the Man Said” (in which Martyn delights in pinching a few phrases from Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen and U2, among others), and the truly stirring “Walk Down the Mountain,” inspired by the true story of Dr. Beck Weathers, a hiker left for dead on Mount Everest in the May 1996 storm that claimed eight victims, who managed to survive the disaster.
ReviewsMartyn has a powerful voice and some stories to tell. "Whoever it was..." features more reflective and personal songs, e.g. a tribute to older women in a youth-cult society, For a glimpse of the political side, Appleseed Records has appended two tracks from one of his benefit EPs, to benefit War Child, a network of independent organizations working across the world to help children affected by war. "The Great American Novel" laments the death of the American Dream, "The Good in Me is Dead" is from the standpoint of a young Kosovan refugee. Martyn's here - whoever it was who brought him - and hopefully for some time before he's taken home again. - Folk World (DE)