By Warren Kurtz
The opening six notes of "Aqualung” and its guitar solo on this rock classic is the work of Martin Barre, who was with Jethro Tull beginning with their second album, from 1969 through 2012, making him the second longest band member after Ian Anderson. The Martin Barre Band are comprised of singers and musicians from the county of Devon in England. Their new album, Roads Less Travelled, is solid with a sound that should please fans of Jethro Tull, Santana, Eric Clapton, and Blackmore’s Night, with all eleven songs written by Martin Barre.
Win Martin Barre’s Roads Less Travelled CD – see below for details.
GOLDMINE: You have assembled quite a band in Devon.
MARTIN BARRE: In this traditionally industrial area, it is amazing to have so many great musical people here. It is not obvious. I had to seek them out.
GM:The album opens with “Lone Wolf,” with a bit of mandolin and mandola, which will immediately catch the ears of Jethro Tull fans and introduce new listeners of your band to Dan Crisp’s vocals, bringing both clarity and power to the songs.
MB: Dan’s vocals add a lot to this one, which was written around a mandolin riff. It has good pacing and plays well on stage, working very well live, which is a good test on whether to include it on an album.
GM:On “I’m On My Way,” Dan sings about moving from state to state, which my family can relate to, doing that many times over the years.
MB: I am a nomadic musician. I don’t feel like I live anywhere, and I am used to it, living in hotels. I get into the swing of living out of a suitcase and have been for a long time. I rather like it.
GM:The electric and acoustic combination on the title song “Roads Less Travelled” is nicely balanced and blended.
MB: I had a chordal pattern and it was harder to find a melody, which finally came and brought it all together. The lyrics deal with taking the route that others may not take. People get nervous or unsure. For me, that road is a bit more exciting.
GM:On “For No Man” and some of the other numbers, I hear Josiah J. on keyboards, rounding out the sound and adding an interesting color to the tracks.
MB: He was the last person to put stuff on the album. He was a bit of an unknown factor coming into the studio. He was fun to work with and successfully did his parts.
GM:There is one song where you do all the parts, on the three-part “Trinity,” which flows nicely, reminding me of the transitioning in “Thick as a Brick.”
MB: The three parts were developed, one from another, with harmonies and textures. The title comes from Leon Uris’ novel Trinity about families in Ireland, highlighting history and conflict, and the trinity being the Protestants, Catholics and the English. He called the conflicted Ireland a terrible beauty.
GM:There is pure beauty in Alex Hart’s vocals. She sounds stunning on “You Are an Angel.”
MB: I had written a chord sequence. On television I saw bombing in Syria. Children were in a terrible state and there was only one nurse. This young nurse seemed so oblivious to everything and kept her focus on saving lives. I was so emotionally affected by watching her, reminding me of Florence Nightingale.
GM:Becca Langsford certainly delivered the right vocal sound for “Badcore Blues” and continued that blues lead vocal on “And the Band Played Only for Me.”
MB: I was gobsmacked by what Becca had done in the studio with “Badcore Blues.” I left her in the studio while I focused on other things and this is what she created. “And the Band Played Only for Me” is about ballroom dancing, which is a lost artform that I fear will disappear one day. I witnessed it in an England hotel where there was one guy whose job was to dance with the old ladies. Then in California, in San Luis Obispo, my wife Julie and I saw people all dressed up and ended up watching their ballroom dancing for two hours. Both Becca and Alex are on “And the Band Played Only for Me.” I hope they’ll come for the Jethro Tull tour next year.
GM:Speaking about Jethro Tull, I remember showing my father the photo page of you in the Living in the Past album package, where you are on a golf course, and I pointed out “Driving Song” to him. Now you are back with “(This Is) My Driving Song.”
MB: How about that. I never related “Driving Song” and golf together, until now. When we were originally planning on releasing the “Living in the Past” single in 1969, it needed a flip side. I had this riff and that became the basis of “Driving Song.” I never received songwriting credit for it at the time. That’s just how things went, but in revisiting that sound for the new album, a bit tongue in cheek, I am saying, “This Is My Driving Song!”
GM:It would take a couple more years until a 1972 reissue of Living in the Pastwould reach the U.S. Top 100, going all the way to No. 11. Before that, the first charting single for the band was a pair from the Aqualung album, “Hymn 43” with “Mother Goose” as its flip side.
MB: On stage I have played “Hymn 43” as a jig on mandolin. In St. Louis there was a charity show and a local band there said they played “Hymn 43,” so I joined them live for the Aqualung album version of the song. “Mother Goose” is one we played in Jethro Tull concerts many times.
GM:The final charting single for the band in the U.S. was another favorite of mine, “Fallen on Hard Times” with “Pussy Willow” on its flip side, from the album The Broadsword and The Beast. I remember an evening in 1982 when my wife Donna came home tired from work, I said, “Relax. Put your feet up and listen to this new album. In twenty minutes, I’ll flip it over.”
MB: Right after she heard “Slow Marching Band” at the end of side one. I have played that one live.
GM:You have a busy live schedule in the first half of 2019, balancing the Martin Barre Band and 'Martin Barre Celebrates 50 Years of Jethro Tull' shows.
MB: Our band tour will be in the U.S. and Europe, but the Jethro Tull tour will be totally in the U.S., which will include me, Clive and Jonathan.
'Martin Barre Celebrates 50 Years of Jethro Tull' features Martin Barre (Jethro Tull guitarist 1969-2012), Clive Bunker (Jethro Tull drummer 1967-1971) and Jonathan Noyce (Jethro Tull bassist 1995-2007).
To win Martin Barre’s Roads Less TravelledCD, all you have to do is put your email and address in the boxes below by December 31, 2018 11:59 p.m. You will immediately be entered into the Giveaway and as a bonus you will receive Goldmine’s informative weekly eNewsletter (collecting news/tips and exclusive articles and interviews with your favorite classic artists). We will randomly draw winners from the entrants. Purple Pyramid Records has supplied us with two copies of this CD set to give away, so your chances are doubled.