Sarah Jane Morris: Sweet Little Mystery
- David Pollock
- 5 August 2019
Heartfelt tribute to the music of John Martyn
Sometime Communards and Pere Ubu collaborator Sarah Jane Morris is a dependable Edinburgh festival presence, having brought Compared to What, the live performance of her album with virtuoso guitarist Antonio Forcione, here in 2016. Her latest gig is on an altogether different musical subject, yet it follows the same route of pairing Morris' fiercely dynamic contralto voice with the playing of a master guitarist – in this case the project's co-originator Tony Remy, whose credits include Herbie Hancock and Annie Lennox, alongside Tim Cansfield on second acoustic guitar.
Together, the pair bolster Morris' mighty vocal performance amid a show that is something more than a tribute to the music of the Glasgow-raised singer and songwriter John Martyn. Directed by the comedian turned theatrical storyteller Mark Thomas – ensuring he isn't entirety absent from the festival in 2019 – the songs are wrapped in pre-recorded video inserts from key names: folk lynchpins Richard and Linda Thompson, separately; friend of Morris and Martyn, Eddi Reader; Martyn's Glasgow drinking buddy Jim McKnight; and Martyn's younger sister Julie Purdey.
We wind through robust versions of the show's title song and 'Head and Heart', through to 'Solid Air', amid tales that it was written in Nick Drake's honour. There's a mighty communal finale of 'Don't Want to Know', and the sense is not of an easy biographical tribute, but a conjuring of Martyn's very spirit through heartfelt song and loving anecdote.
Assembly Festival George Square Studios, until 11 Aug, 6.45pm, £14–£13 (£13–£12).