2020 Addison Street
Berkeley, CA, 94704
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
It's been a few miles across America, Canada, the UK and Europe since Willy Porter released his debut CD, "The Trees Have Soul" in 1990. Back then he traveled in his Volkswagen selling discs out of the trunk, mesmerizing audiences with his guitar chops and original tunes.
In 1994, he released his second independent CD entitled, "Dog Eared Dream." The album marked Porter's artistic growth from his constant touring and a more developed songwriting perspective. The song "Angry Words" became a top-10 staple on Triple AAA radio stations around the country. This radio success established Porter as a nationally recognized artist, and brought the inevitable major label bidding war to a boil. "Dog Eared Dream" highlighted his pop songwriting sensibility and also his acoustic guitar work that would grow into a style uniquely his own — a mixture of Leo Kottke, Michael Hedges, Richard Thompson and Lindsey Buckingham.
He would ultimately sign with Private Music/BMG in 1995. European and American tours with Rickie Lee Jones, Tori Amos and The Cranberries followed over the next year and a half. Private Music went super nova in 1997, and Porter was left in contractual limbo with BMG. Porter regained momentum in 1999 when he signed with San Francisco-based Six Degrees Records and released the folk-pop gem, "Falling Forward." Produced by Grammy winner Neil Dorfsman (Dire Straits, Sting), "Falling Forward" contained the radio friendly tracks "Mystery" & "Cut the Rope." National tours commenced with legendary artists Paul Simon, Sting, Jeff Beck and Jethro Tull.
In 2002, Porter brought seemingly disparate elements together on his eponymous self-titled disc, "Willy Porter." The album combined his fiery acoustic guitar work with career defining songwriting and vocal work — equal parts rock muscle, and folk-based intimacy. "Willy Porter" showed his growing vocal talents as he sidestepped through various character songs with power and detailed subtlety.
In 2003, the solo live album "High Wire Live" would further forge Porters' relationship with his growing audience. It clearly showcased his mastery of the acoustic guitar in his most comfortable environment — his live show. He continued to stretch over the next couple of years morphing performance art, live audio looping, and improvisational sketch comedy into his solo whistle stops. Each tour date became a unique event, a musical experience much greater than just a review of past, present and future recorded work.
Porters' combined experience at both major and independent record labels ultimately fueled the drive to release a wider variety of music on a more frequent basis, and led Porter to start his own imprint, Weasel Records in December 2005. His latest release, "Available Light" (Ryko Distribution), features Porter at the peak of his powers as a guitarist, singer, songwriter & recording artist.
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, recently described Porter's musicianship this way: "Willy Porter's music demonstrates admirably that the technical excellence of his guitar-playing will never overwhelm the essence of the song itself. In perfect symbiosis, the disciplines of performance and songwriting combine together to create the unique work for which he is admired by professional peers and audiences alike. Oh — and a damn fine singer too. Thank goodness he doesn't play the flute.
Britain's two leading contemporary music magazines Q, and, MoJo, respectively, describe Martyn Joseph as having 'a depth, resonance and emotional punch, which belies comparisons', and as being 'an artist of enduring worth'. Meanwhile The Guardian was transfixed by this gifted and gracious Welshman's 'burnished voice' whilst Tom Robinson of BBC 6 Music and iconic songwriter himself, regards Martyn as one of Britain's 'most charismatic and electrifying performers'. The Boston Globe concluded that the man was a profound experience.
Such press plaudits, and there are many more to choose from, would make any publicist purr with pleasure, but for Martyn Joseph, he regards them in a detached, almost incidental kind of way. For Martyn, 'it's the song that matters'.
Yet such is Martyn's stature as an acoustic artist of almost hypnotic ability that BBC Radio 2, Britain's most listened to radio network, featured Martyn in their peak-time series on Singer/Songwriters. To be awarded the garland of your own programme on the Sony 'Station Of The Year', and placed alongside the likes of Elvis Costello, Richard Thompson and Mary Chapin Carpenter really says it all about Martyn's abilities.
Martyn's 20 year career has embraced some notable achievements including 5 Top 40 UK chart positions, with such songs as 'Dolphins Make Me Cry', 'Working Mother' and 'Let's Talk About It In The Morning', and appearances and tours with, amongst others, Suzanne Vega, Marc Cohn, Joan Armatrading, Clannad, Chris De Burgh, Jools Holland, Art Garfunkel, and even, Celine Dion. However, for Martyn, these various accomplishments, satisfying though they are, count as just part of the process, the necessary presentation aspect. As he says, 'Really what I do is try and write songs that might make a difference'. His touring work and appearances over the years, on both sides of the Atlantic, have helped to establish this gifted and gracious Welshman as one of the foremost singer/songwriters of his generation. As Janis Ian said of sharing a stage with Martyn 'I loved working with him. I loved listening to him, I'd love to work with him again, anytime, anyplace.
Martyn's particular strength is in the lyrical narrative of his songs, be they contemporary protests against injustice and inhumanity, a musical psalm to the fulfilment and fragilities of love, or a piercing précis of social history, 'it's the song that can soothe, explain, and even in a small way save us'. In this manner he carries on in the tradition of the six string balladeer as both catalyst and interpreter of our raddled and rewarding times, our personal and communal stories sung out loud in the spirit of Woody Guthrie, Ewan MacColl, Hank Williams and Bruce Springsteen. That tradition, and sound, that thankfully still emerges from The Hallowed Hobo's Hall of Fame.
Across a 10 year cycle of albums from the Sony days of 'Being There' to his recent two studio albums Whoever It Was That Brought Me Here Will Have To Take Me Home and Deep Blue, Martyn's song catalogue is an awesomely impressive archive of our times, our tribulations, our wonder and our wounds. Amongst the considerable collection of positive reviews of Martyn's recording and live work, the two regularly recurring words describing, in particular, his performances are 'passion' and 'humour'. One observer after seeing Martyn in concert likened the experience and content to 'the beautiful business of being alive with all its jokes, absurdity and sadness, seared by music for the heart and head'. When you encounter Martyn Joseph, you'll hear likewise.........