Trembling hands clutching the Americana genre, shaking it until something new falls out, will not be disappointed here. Jeffrey Martin has toiled away, paying his dues and earning a spot as a firm hand in the singer-songwriter genre. Thank God We Left the Garden sees this place established further, fattened up with quality songs to guide listeners into those autumnal nights. Those delicate, barely audible notes on Lost Dog, the album opener, are reminiscent of those charming little numbers Richard Hawley can claim responsibility for on Truelove’s Gutter. Martin has a far different voice to the legendary crooner, but the intimacies are all the same in quality and intonation. Running the darkness in a voice as croaky and wiry as Bob Dylan’s, Martin crafts his own, and the surprise is on his listener.
Mortality wraps itself around Martin and his lyrics, from the final breath of Lost Dog to the leaving of this titular yet nonspecific garden. Garden is a neat transitional track and paves the way to Quiet Man. Suffering is the core, as it was for Donnie Emerson on his tender Baby. Similar tones are set with the desire for love and the passionate gaze held in the one-man-and-his-guitar situation discovered on Thank God We Left the Garden. Perfect music to listen to as you try and stomach a coffee, coughing up phlegm and bracing yourself as a wave of a new headache hits. How could people possibly love the end of the year? Because of works like this. Thank God We Left the Garden is not a stuffy record, it is open and free and fresh as the air likely captured on that album cover.
Some records will receive no attention from those passing by the office – but Martin’s work got an “ooh, what’s that?”. That is a far more valuable comment to make than anything a professional could write. The everyday is where Thank God We Left the Garden finds itself and through luck, a hell of a lot of luck, it will reach the right people. Tender, intimate and open tracks like Daylight will crackle through in all the right ways. Martin and his guitar provide swift moves away from Americana and firmly into an American Folk style which presents itself more as a platform for the vocal talents of a man on his fourth album than anything else. That is what a genre should be there for, though.
Balance and a presentation of the intimacies of life – those moments of loved ones crying and reeling from problems unknown from our perspective – flicker through with a tear-jerking impressiveness on I Didn’t Know. What a pleasure it is to be moved by this record, Martin has captured a heartwarming experience across these tracks. There is no doubt the makings of a piece which asks for more from the listener. Not just to move on to the rest of this body of work, but a reflective and calming tone washes through this one – an attempt is made by Martin to connect, truly, with the problems of an entire audience. That much will serve him well, and it gives Thank God We Left the Garden a living, breathing core.