Martyn Joseph songs are like dominoes falling. They are just thoughtful couplet after thoughtful couplet bombarding us with depth charges for the head, the heart and the soul.
And so with This Is What I Want To Say. Folding is a song about the unfolding of life and a perfect opener:
I am folding like a kit that has lost the wind
I am holding to the remnant of these sins
To a vast goodbye and a lost hello
I am folding, folding slow
That vast goodbye is his father Brian Edward Joseph leaving the planet. The small hello is his son Jack Brian Joseph’s arrival. Joseph’s previous record 1960 was a reflection on his entire life. This one is about now.
So, from those openers the dominoes fall, bombarding us in the most melodic of ways with wrestling, vulnerability, anger, proverb, thanksgiving and the prophetic.
Pacific Northwest, a geographical area familiar in Joseph’s writings, is a man seeking hope in the heart of humanity; I’d Take You Out is a man prepared to lose his soul to take out those who oppress and violently scatter injustice; Waiting For The Rain is the opposite, a very much Welsh welcome and hopefully heal asylum seekers; Don’t Need No Cathedral is about finding life transcendent outside of the structures of religion; and Gratitude a near hymn of thanksgiving.
There’s a lot of love in the make of these dominoes. There’s Joseph’s own love in the closing You’re Still Here and Without You, the piano and the latter played by his wife Justine. Take Me To Love, the simplest lyric here is like a prayer for love and the ability to be that love.
In Albert’s Place, written on commission by the BBC 21st Folk series, Joseph nails it in the prophetic:
And the measure of a country’s prosperity
Is not the wealth it holds
But in the absence of poverty and equal opportunities for all
The song expresses all of the album’s hope for love in a simple but profound image:
Albert’s Place has seen it all
The meat and coal when the big ships called
But maybe now its greatest day of all
Brings tea and a cup of love
Tea in a cup of love
Tea in a cup of love. I can’t tell you how much a I love that.
Everything Martyn Joseph does is top quality songwriting, with deft guitar skills and a whole lot of life experience well discerned.
1960 was in my opinion Joseph’s finest work. This Is What I Want To Say is a very fine companion piece. It’s strength of content is revealed by a more stripped down production. As the years go by this man gets it closer and closer to perfect.
First review of the year and I can say with utter confidence that by year’s end it’ll be up there as an album of 2024.