The first thing you need to know about Carrie Martin is that she is a true born and bred Yorkshire lass. Born in Hull – well before all of this ‘Humberside’ nonsense, of course – she first picked up a guitar at the age of four when her older brother was making efforts to learn the instrument. Being drawn to it, and having far more natural aptitude for playing than her slightly reluctant sibling, she made her first public performance at the tender age of nine, playing at a school concert. A modest debut perhaps, but it whetted her appetite for more, and her teenage years were defined by music.
She would travel to clubs playing alongside her father, who worked the circuit as a guitarist and vocalist himself, which gave her an invaluable grounding in terms of playing to an audience, and between the ages of about fourteen and nineteen she began making something of a name for herself locally, having her songs played on the local radio as well as performing live. Once she hit the end of her teens, however, inspired by female singers fronting bands such as the Bangles and Transvision Vamp – and her biggest influence of all, Ann Wilson from Heart – she changed tack altogether, dropping the guitar in favour of a ‘rock chick’ makeover and fronting bands as a singer – she has never felt the urge to dabble with the electric guitar, so it was the microphone only at this time. Her first band was named Foreign Affair, which may well be one of the most ‘eighties’ names for a band ever conceived!
When she got married and had children a few years later, she finally abandoned the guitar for what seemed at the time to be a permanent basis, taking it up into the loft in her parents’ home, where it would remain gathering dust for some two decades, as she forgot about her musical ambitions in favour of raising a family, and for a time took up long distance running as a hobby. This was all to change with a chance meeting in 2011 with an old acquaintance who urged her to pick up the instrument again. She rescued the guitar from its long slumber in her parents’ loft and went to a guitar tutor named John Shepherd for some refresher lessons, in order to get back up to speed. It very quickly came back to her, in fact so much so that Shepherd commented what a talent she had, and that she certainly would need no more tuition. Only a week after the guitar was reunited with her, however, came the real turning point when she attended a Gordon Giltrap concert only to be invited to step in as support act when the original opening act had backed out on the afternoon of the show. Encouraged enormously by Gordon, she played and sang a short set of cover versions, and even accompanied him at one point.
From this, and with Gordon’s support, she began building her reputation again and gained a lot of confidence playing at the Bayfolk folk club in Robin Hood’s Bay, on the Yorkshire coast – a place very close to her heart. She quite soon put out her first release, a seven-track EP entitled Luna, which gathered some favourable attention. When she sent a copy to Gordon, he responded with amazement at the quality of her songwriting, saying that he had no idea she was such a strong writer as well as performer. It was at this point that he really stepped in to become her chief mentor and an extremely close friend, and she puts a great deal of the success she has had down to his friendship and unflagging support. Three years later, in 2014, she finally put out her first full album ‘proper’, entitled What If, on which she was joined as guest musicians by not only Gordon but also – through him – Oliver Wakeman (son of Rick) and Ric Sanders from Fairport Convention. The album was very much a solo affair, with only the occasional guest appearances accompanying her own playing, but it was enough to cement her growing reputation. Carrie was also picking up attention from her endorsement connections with Vintage / JHS guitars, her instrument of choice for some years and a source of constant support. She has also become the proud owner of a beautiful Fylde guitar, crafted by the great guitar-maker Roger Bucknall.
After a couple of years playing this material live, and gradually amassing more songs to her repertoire as she went along, the time was right to record what is unquestionably her definitive statement to date, the Seductive Sky album, released in 2017. This time the sound was much richer, with a full band treatment on several of its dozen tracks, and drums and bass provided by the album’s producer Mikey Scott. Once again there were guest players, but this time a greater cast; as well as some local musicians, the album features not only Gordon and Oliver again, but a couple of new, and significant, names. Firstly, there is electric guitar on one track courtesy of respected American session player Elliott Randall, who can be heard providing the unmistakeable guitar solos on Steely Dan’s Reelin’ In The Years and, less predictably, Irene Cara’s theme from the movie Fame. In addition, there is some violin provided by Daniel Karl Cassidy, the younger brother of legendary singer, the late Eva Cassidy. In fact, Eva was a hero and inspiration to Carrie, influencing her own material, and yet she did not come to realise the identity of Daniel until he had already agreed to play on the album, so that was something of a major coup from her own point of view.
The album demonstrates a quantum leap in terms of the subtlety and craftsmanship of her songwriting, both musically and lyrically, and the reviews have been almost universally positive. With plans afoot to put on shows with a full band performing the music from the album, the next step on Carrie Martin’s remarkable journey from ‘housewife with a musical tale to tell’ to a genuinely respected name in the world of acoustic-based folk-rock music is well underway. And that is truly something to which she could only have been saying What If... not too many years before.
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