JOHN MARTYN has now spent 23 years ignoring fashion; a veteran post-hippy bluesmith whose followers seem willing to die for him, he appeared swathed in moody lighting singing about sweet love, sweet little mysteries, fishermen, and other long-haired concerns.
The sound, soothing and dependable, wanders down surprising byways; one moment he lulls you to sleep with husky balladeering only to shake you up with a rock that rattles your toes, bolstered by whipping sax solos that pierce through to your very bones.
Occasionally degenerating into the manner of a gruff pub-rocker, muttering into the mike as if into his pint, he does not always serve his own material well, but to the pre-baby-boomer generation of fans, the world-weary boozer is, peculiarly, an endearing pose.
Playing up to the audience as well as playing to them, Martyn comes on like a laid-back stage jester with silly voices and fake starts; he's got the charm to carry it off, and his beautifully understated songwriting makes you feel you could forgive him anything. He kicked off his second set with some impromptu solo acoustics, crooning and croaking out the blues while half the audience were still knocking back their half-time drinks. A few notes wafting into the bar provoked a stampede back to the seats, alcohol abandoned; these fans are nothing if not fanatical.
Martyn sings "Love is kind, love is never blind, love is honest, love is true, love is the only drug"1 - the dilated pupils of half the audience suggest otherwise. In a cocooned cult Martyn is the self-deprecating, undemanding maestro who proves that love is also a matter of subtlety.
1 Not quite. The lyric refers to The Cure and the word 'drug' did not make it to the Cooltide record. 'Love is the only cure for your broken heart'.
This review was published in the Glasgow Herald of 14 May 1991. There were two concerts as "part of the Mayfest bash. An annual festival held in the city every few years in the 1990s. Donovan was also playing that month in 1991." (John Neil Munro)