Dom Martin Band
Thursday 19th October 2023
Eel Pie Club, Twickenham, London
Having witnessed a solo acoustic show by this force of nature six months ago, I was determined to see the full band (trio) electric tour. The Eel Pie Club in Twickenham was as close to central London as it got, but it was, as expected, well worth the additional mileage.
Not that it’s easy to “see” any band in the upstairs bar of the Cabbage Patch pub, which is long and narrow; a kind of L shape, with the merch stall hidden away at the top end, the stage in a sunken “well” at the angle and the loos at the toe “end”. Many regulars take root at the bar after ordering, which makes sight lines and accessibility difficult, to say the best for it. Sadly, there were also some sound problems on the night, but fortunately not bad enough to spoil the show, as the band gamely played on regardless.
The tour is designed to showcase Dom’s new album ‘Buried In The Hail’ and only two of its songs were left unplayed. The beautiful acoustic instrumental opener was played solo, before Dom was joined by drummer Aaron McLaughlin and bass guitarist Ben Graham for ‘The Fall’ (also primarily a guitar showcase) and then ‘Government’. In his song introductions Dom explained that they are not political statements, but simply reflect his view that we could (and should) all improve things by simply being kinder to each other.
Although well known for his love of Rory Gallagher, Dom restricted himself to one song forever associated with Rory in ‘Messin’ With The Kid’. The song was first recorded by Rory for his ‘Live! In Europe’ album in 1972, but had already been the signature tune for Junior Wells’ harmonica for over a decade by then; it remained a staple in both artists’ live sets for the rest of their careers and it’s easy to understand why.
The title track of Dom’s new album was born from the emotions stirred up by thinking back on his sometimes (probably often) traumatic early years, from which he was lucky to emerge alive; to have emerged emotionally unscathed would have been impossible. It must be a difficult task to play the track live, even without the sound problems, which necessitated a pause in mid song, but the band retained its good humour and ploughed on.
‘Belfast Blues’, which has developed into a muscular beast of a song since I heard it previewed in acoustic form at the Water Rats in April, was a natural follow up to ‘Buried In The Hail’, as it also deals with craziness witnessed by Dom in his youth. It featured a particularly cracking guitar solo and impressive bass support from Graham.
The pace of the music was maintained by ‘Lefty 2 Guns’ and ‘Howlin’, which respectively (and respectfully) owe their origins to Al Pacino’s hitman character in the film “Donnie Brasco” and to Blues legend Howlin’ Wolf.
After ‘Unhinged’ we were treated to the album’s sole cover version, as Dom played his very individual take on ‘Crazy’; like John Martyn, Dom’s voice can be soft and gentle, while simultaneously hinting at almost menacing undertones. Most of us probably know the song as a ballad sung by Patsy Cline (it was a hit for her in 1961), but it was a surprise to me to discover quite recently that the song was written by Country music legend Willie Nelson, who was apparently persuaded to let Dom record it by the gift of a large bag of weed!
Before we could worry that Dom’s announcement of the end of the show seemed premature, the band launched into a blistering encore version of ‘Maxwell Shuffle’ (from his previous album ‘A Savage Life’, 2022). For over a quarter of hour Dom played some astonishing, inventive guitar, trading licks with first bass, then drums, as the song morphed into ‘Moby Dick’ (from ‘Led Zeppelin II’, 1969) and ‘Let’s Get Funky’ (from Hound Dog Taylor & The House Rockers’ ‘Beware Of The Dog!’, 1976), before returning to his own composition. Breathtaking stuff!
If you haven’t yet attended a Dom Martin gig, buy a ticket; if you don’t yet own a Dom Martin CD or LP, get one (or, better still, get them all!)!
Photos: Manuela Langotsch
Hello In There; The Fall; Government; Messin’ With The Kid; Buried In The Hail; Belfast Blues; Lefty 2 Guns; Howlin’; Unhinged; Crazy; Maxwell Shuffle.