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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Reviews:: Christina Martin Two Hearts

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"I was like all those people who suddenly shaved their heads and said they'd always been punks, they'd been punks before punk was even thought of: I felt as though I was going to be found out at any moment."

That classic line from Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity summed up the affect music and pop culture had on the masses when punk rock took over the nation, and while the spirit of punk is dead in ’08, the idea remains the same. Today, even the most fashionable of establishments sell "vintage" cowboys shirts and even the poppiest song writers are using pedal steel to add that bottom of the bottle feel to their efforts. That saturation results in an abundance of mediocre music, and ultimately helps an artist like Christina Martin stands out.

A cynic might look at her influences (Lucinda, Wilco, Steve Earle and Shawn Colvin) and the heart break and longing she sings about and assume she’s just another artist shifting to the hottest sound. In reality, the Halifax song writer cut her teeth in dingy bars in Austin, opening for terrific musicians and learning what being a song writer is all about and at the end of the day, the most heartfelt compliment I can give is that everything about her country fused, roots style is real and earned through experience.

With help from Dale Murray’s deft touch help, the arrangements feel completely natural. It's the subtleties she adds - the banjo on the title track or the subtle glimpse of steel on Hard Day in June - that fit the songs perfectly and the steel guitar, harmonies and perfectly placed mariachi horns that support Christina’s vocals and acoustic chords on China Box erase remaining doubts you might have.

I’d love to call China Box the standout, but her consistency is the biggest surprise about Two Hearts. The record is only 9 songs (and a fast moving 34-minutes), but each is as strong as the one before it and that has a lot to do with Martin’s persona. She seems like the type of girl that would be as likely to saddle up to the end of the bar and share too many stiff ones with you as she would be to open up to you completely as you sit quietly on the couch away from the eyes of the world.

And that's why, even with the support of her talented friends backing her up, this record is all Christina’s. Her secure strums and foot stomp rhythms perfectly contrast the honesty, vulnerability and undying optimism she sings with, but unlike far too many female songwriters she never trades that optimism for naivety.

It's quite obvious Christina has seen too much to still think the world is perfect – love can run you over and in the end you might have to pick up the pieces time and time again - but that won’t stop her from opening up her heart again. Whether it’s a stripped down, traditional roots confessional (Hard Day In June) or a soaring choral anthem (Guard Your Heart or the beautiful Love Letters), Martin admirably pens the feelings we all have on those long nights where the bartender and what he’s serving seem to be the only friends you’ve got.

Check her out tomorrow at Ginger's Tavern as a part of the Halfnotes series or as part of the NSMW Songwriter Circle @ deCoste Centre with talents like Ruth Minniken.

Posted at 8:24 AM by ack :: 2 comments

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At 5:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous did sayeth:

Does this album have any connection to 80's one hit wonder Stacy Q "2 of Hearts"?



At 6:25 AM, Blogger ack did sayeth:

I can't say for certain, but the rumor on the street is that the whole record is a modern day concept album based on the life and times of Stacy Q.

Or something about everyone moving to the Royale Hemlock... either or :)


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