Martin Stephenson and the Daintees - Gladsome, Humour & Blue
2018 sees the re-recording and launch of Martin Stephenson’s critically acclaimed second album Gladsome, Humour & Blue, celebrating a 30th anniversary and as pertinent and poignant as ever.
Stephenson realised it was a powerful album at the time, with a wide and far-reaching vision. Part of his genius is in producing songs that are timeless, with a message as powerful now as it was then. He inhabits this updated album’s message with the same degree of conviction and passion as ever, breathing beautiful new life into an established classic.
The original captured a special moment in time; the mellow maturity of this album shows it has stood the test and surpassed it.
John Steel: Electric lead guitars, additional bass guitar
Kate Stephenson: Drumming
Susanna Wolfe: Main backing vocals
Stuart Macleod: Additional electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Anna Lavigne: additional backing vocal
Martin Stephenson: Acoustic and electric guitars, lead vocals
Recorded in Beetroot studios, Airdrie near Glasgow with go-to engineer Stuart Macleod.
Martin did a limited initial run which was covered by purchases from loyal Martin Stephenson/Daintees ‘superfans’. These are a hard core of faithful followers whose support helps to fund and cycle his music and creativity. It is more organic than forms of ‘crowdfunding’ and works symbiotically in that it is mutually supportive and built on trust.
Working with limited budgets can certainly force creativity and some of the best art is created that way!
The songs on this album are all gems in their own way, but to highlight a few gifts:
Wholly Humble Heart took the world by storm in 1988. It sang of a gay man’s battle for love – to the backdrop of the hateful Clause 28 against homosexuality - and showed Stephenson’s singular defiance in the face of injustice. Never afraid to tackle controversial subjects, he remains a poetic champion of the underdog and oppressed.
Old Church was a weird song for a 24 year-old to take to a rock and roll band! It has a unique viewpoint in that it sings of the building itself, not religious attachments. For Stephenson, a deeply sensitive and empathetic soul, simplicity is the key to spirituality and to him love without control is the answer.
Goodbye John is a unique stream of consciousness which originally covered 10 foolscap pages and Get Get Gone is part of that same outpour.
The chorus was subconsciously written to both John Martyn and John Steel. Stephenson finished touring with Martyn in 86 and John Steel left the Daintees the same year so it was very symbolic…
Paul Samwell Smith had produced Cat Stevens 15 years earlier and the name Mathew became a special link between these two gifted musicians with the synchronicity of names in Steven’s Mathew and Son and Stephenson’s Me and Mathew. Ironically, Samwell Smith is working with Cat Stevens again, just as the 30th anniversary celebrations take place.
As Sounds mag said of the original album, “ One of the finest and grossly underrated singer songwriters this country has given birth to has stood in the shadows too long “.
It is time to change all that and Gladsome, Humour & Blue cements Stephenson in the annals as a truly great songwriter…
Martin Stephenson has been one of the UK’s most perceptive songwriters and best loved musicians for over 30 years.
Born in Durham and brought up in nearby mining village Washington Tyne & Wear, he has a self-deprecating humour and humility that belie his considerable talents.
Stephenson formed The Daintees in his teens with the deliberate intention of showcasing a broad range of musical styles.
Debut single Roll on Summertime was issued by Newcastle’s Kitchenware Records in 1982, becoming single of the week in Sounds having impressed editor Dave McCulloch. This followed with a centre page spread.
Successful and critically acclaimed albums followed over the decade:
Boat to Bolivia - original songwriting at its best, produced by Gil Norton (Foo Fighters, Gomez, Pixies, Echo & The Bunnymen)
Gladsome, Humour & Blue – a timeless classic produced by ex-Yardbird Paul Samwell Smith (Cat Stevens – Carly Simon – All About Eve)
Salutation Road A classic album recorded in LA, produced by Pete Anderson ( Michelle Shocked – Dwight Yoakam) recorded in LA’s Capital studio, Sunset Sounds and Mad Dog down on Venice Beach.
The Boy’s Heart Another classic album recorded in the early 90's, producer Lenny Kaye (Suzanne Vega - James) who was flown over from New York City to record in Newcastle upon Tyne. The last time Kaye had been there was whilst performing with the Patti Smith Group in 1978, where a 17 year-old Stephenson was in attendance.
Stephenson then began cutting ties with the mechanics of the mainstream music business and whilst disbanding in 92, continued to perform and record solo and as a group.
Hugely popular 1986 debut album Boat to Bolivia showcased Stephenson’s songwriting, poetic romanticism and spiritual depth – so marking him out as a soulful cream of the leftfield crop during the self-obsessed 1980s.
Never pandering to a particular scene, his dexterity and ease with a varied mix of musical styles was immediately apparent. His path was destined to be a lifelong journey through the music he loved: folk, ragtime, jazz, rockabilly, punk-pop, country blues and more.
He has honed his skills over the years but his lightness of touch and engaging spontaneity remain.
For him music is a vocation, not a career and his restless troubadour spirit has amassed an extraordinary catalogue of over 40 albums.
Over the two decades since claiming his own musical independence, Stephenson has released a succession of strong self-produced albums such as Yogi in my House, The Lilac Tree, Collective Force, Western Eagle, California Star and Haunted Highway.
The critically acclaimed Boat to Bolivia album from ’86 was re-recorded to celebrate the 30thanniversary in 2016 and completed a highly successful UK tour.
2017 saw the release of brand new Daintees album Bayswater Road with a strong tour of the UK and Ireland showcasing the album to rapturous applause.
Stephenson was then invited to perform in Glasgow at the BBC Quay Sessions with Roddy Hart and Tom Robinson was delighted to invite him in for a session at BBC Radio 6 in London at the end of November.
2018 sees the 30thanniversary release of the wonderful, re-recorded Gladsome, Humour & Blue album. A Daintees UK tour follows later in the year.
30th anniversaries of Salutation Road will follow in 2020 and Boy’s Heart in 2022; all of these releases will be supported by a strong tour.
There are other exciting albums in production: Thomasina, dedicated to his late aunt and Brady Square, the title track referencing his childhood home and North East roots. These albums are fresh and quirky and show that Stephenson still has that magic touch and the ability to move and enchant.
His albums have been released on various UK and US labels, including Kitchenware, London, Capitol USA, and most recently, his own Barbaraville label.
It is through this that he has developed songwriting and music production and helps fellow artists to get a footing. Here as in so many areas, he is tireless in his support and encouragement of others.
Stephenson started off as a busker and he still has that instinct and joy for live performance. Despite having played venues such as Glastonbury (where he has headlined) he loves just taking to the street and playing whatever takes his fancy, such as Chet Atkins or Merle Travis. He doesn’t put a case out for money, he plays for the sheer pleasure and to connect with people.
The NME said of Martin’s song craft that he “builds bridges between love and hate, cradle and grave, folk and pop, past and present.”
Legendary Scottish comedian and musician, Billy Connolly recently dedicated a section of a forthcoming BBC Scotland tv documentary to Martin Stephenson. Requesting a live performance of his hauntingly beautiful ‘Rain’ from the Bolivia album, and despite frail health, Connolly chose to stay and pass the time with kindred spirit and fellow creative soul. Stephenson humbly responded with the gift of Billy’s Banjo, a freshly penned and composed song to his brother in spirit.
“Such stuff as dreams are made on”…
He has toured with John Martyn , Roy Buchanan, Aztec Camera, Microdisney, The Go-Betweens, Hothouse Flowers, Bob Geldof, Del Amitri, Janis Ian, Indigo girls and Melissa Etheridge, but remains endearingly modest and unaffected.
He really is a spiritual traveller with a style all his own. For him the highest level of achievement is kindness, the greatest currency good will.
Martin Stephenson is a gifted, entertaining and much-loved performer.
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