Martha Fields – Dancing Shadows

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5

Martha Fields has bona fide Southern swagger that is clear from the start of this fine album and demonstrated consistently throughout. “Sukey” a song for Martha’s Cherokee ancestor who lived and raised seven children in a West Virginia Cave, crackles with attitude. Drums are taut and the electric guitars rock n roll fire, while a pedal steel evokes distant wolves. “Paris to Austin” is a more tender travel song, a brush beat on the drums conjuring a sense of passing rails or roadsides. Martha’s voice is equally at home on the electric opener or the more gentle melancholia of the second track. “Exile” is a steamy swampy song, dirty guitars, Hammond organ and Martha’s passionate vocals tell the bitter sweet story of the travelling musician. Even tender “Demona” sets gentle mandolin and sweet fiddle against insistent drum brushes that make your bones dance and again that sense of exiled isolation seeps through. “Oklahoma on My Mind” sets an aching vocal against stripped guitar and percussion with soulful words about being apart from home. “Forbidden Fruit” is all about that huge shimmering 50s guitar sound and Martha defiantly spitting out vocal lines like a Rock n Roll hellfire preacher. The sequencing of this album is spot on, with quiet following full sun no shade hot. “Last Train to Sanesville” and “Maxine” manage to be both and cook with that Texan Hot Country that 80s Michelle Shocked nailed so well on Short Sharp Shocked. There is some killer Honky Tonk piano and squalling guitar too. “West Virginia in My Bones” continues the exiled theme, demonstrating that in death, home is where the heart is. Superb sheets of guitar and another passionate vocal from Martha are star turns. “Dare Thee Well Blues” turns down the gas a little, but Martha’s vocal, wrapped in guitar and pedal steel still burns and seethes. “Hillbilly Bop” is an aptly named Rock n Roll stomper that gets inside your bones and makes you move. “Said and Done” is an acoustic blues wild ride, Fiddle, finger picked dobro and guitar don’t let up for a second with Martha deftly laying it down over the top. “Lone Wolf Waltz” is the ubiquitous slow dance at the end of the evening after the frenetic electric square dance that precedes. Martha’s vocal is, as always, measured and spot on, a powerful powerful instrument carried triumphant on the lush backing through this set of double edged love songs and postcards home.