Walter Martin: The Bear (Family Jukebox) – review

Walter Martin

The Bear

Family Jukebox

Mar 31, 2022
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It seems that every discussion of Walter Martin must begin with the obligatory mention of his prior membership in The Walkmen. So with that out of the way, Martin has put together a fine solo career of his own from children’s music, to more adult themed works, to commercial projects. In 2020 alone, Martin released three albums as if his need to get work out into the world was spurred by fear that he wouldn’t. Martin’s latest is aimed at his adult audience as evidenced by “explicit” song labeling and a reference to someone other than him having slept with his girlfriend.

The songs on The Bear were written during the winter of our collective discontent spanning from late 2020 to early 2021. And maybe because of the time in which that was done, much of the album feels an accounting of Martin’s life, which seems, hopefully, premature and at times a bit maudlin (opening song “Hunters in the Snow” ponders being buried in the ground “where blind moles blink”). The woozily warm acoustic instrumentation helps to cement the feel. But when the album periodically sparkles, as it does triumphantly on its title track, and assuming the listener is paying attention, you can be met with a punch to the gut truth that supplants any of the record’s darker thoughts.

Paralleling Martin’s life with that of the title track’s local legend, an ever-wandering mother bear, is not only a neat trick, but one that allows him to sidetrack the listener into a laundry list of his early life adventures along the way. The song’s middle picks up steam and is carried by snippets of pedal steel and Emile Mosseri’s deft piano playing that builds to a flurry of crashing, Gershwin-esque notes. Martin for his part shifts to his latter day life of “making babies and raising chickens,” before catching a glimpse of what you didn’t see coming. An undeniably powerful moment.

Nostalgia permeates other songs as well. “Hiram Hollow,” sung to the tune of the sea shanty “Blow the Man Down,” recounts his family history. And “Easter” portrays Martin surveying his family post-relocation from New York City on the Easter of 2020 that wasn’t. In the same song he also references the day of the loss of John Prine, who no doubt Martin would idolize, and much of The Bear does feel like the wrapping up of Prine’s Tree of Forgiveness.

The Bear is not likely to take you to Martin’s place when he wrote it, you probably need to already be halfway there to meet him at his mark and willing to soak in its primarily slow moving pace. Even the gentle lilt of “Not My Mother” doesn’t keep it from feeling a somber affair. As Martin says himself in the album’s notes, The Bear is not likely one “to put on at a party.” Martin uses his increasingly craggy voice (somebody get the man a cuppa slippery elm tea) as a weapon in conveying the feeling of story songs like “New Green” and “Baseball Diamonds.” But if you are in the mood and need to capture a slice of what the early days of 2020 brought to mind, The Bear will serve as one of those records you set aside until the moment it’s called for. Like a friend willing to sit with you after a down day, knowing that a few glimpses of sunshine are bound to trickle in. Here being Messori’s sympathetic piano playing, “The Bear,” and the free flowing closer, “The Song Is Never Done.” And in spite of the downcast mood, it’s likely that Martin isn’t done either. (www.waltermartinmusic.com)

Author rating: 7/10

You can download Walter Martin: The Bear (Family Jukebox) - review. You can also see interesting things about Let the Tall Ships Sail

Title : Let the Tall Ships Sail
Artist : Walter Martin - Topic
Duration : 04:05
Size : 5.61 MB
Source : Youtube Music/Video
Type of file : Audio/Video (.mp3 .mp4)

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Released on: 2020-07-10

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