Sarah Jane Morris – “Sweet Little Mystery” at Assembly George Square Studios 3 was my first Fringe show of 2019 and it is always good to start off on a high-note. This collaborative tribute between Sarah Jane Morris (vocals) and Tony Rémy (guitar) is a tribute from the heart to one of the most original musicians and songwriters of his generation - John Martyn (born Iain David McGeachy 1948, died 2009) and celebrates his life and work through some of the wonderful music that he left behind him for us all to still enjoy. With a catalogue of music spanning over 40 years and weaving in and out of many musical genres, John Martyn was a pivotal figure in the Scottish music scene and its development over the years, so choosing the music for this show must have been so difficult as there is only time for a selection of songs.
The format of the show is a simple and well-tested one – live music inter-spaced with commentary from friends and family of John Martyn, and it works well here as an insight into the man behind the music. Sarah Jane Morris is never someone to do anything half-hearted, and the video content used is not like all too many other similar shows taken from existing sources; here Sarah and Tony have worked with director and writer Mark Thomas to talk with people who knew John Martyn closely, and there are stories of charm, humour and love here plus the very special relationship that John enjoyed with fellow musician Nick Drake. The running time of this show is roughly one hour, so I am not going to spend this review time giving away who is on video or the complete set list – that should be something for you to find out and enjoy when you go to the show, but get there on time as the opening five minutes on film use previously unreleased live footage of John Martyn on stage.
As a singer, Sarah Jane Morris was always going to reinterpret these songs in her own very soulful and individual style, and that may or may not please some John Martyn fans who prefer a straight cover of a song, but I think someone as musically open to blending musical boundaries as John Martyn would himself have liked what Sarah Jane has done with songs like “Head and Heart”, “I Don’t Wanna Know” and of course “Sweet Little Mystery”. Adding beautifully to the tone and feel of the music tonight was the wonderfully expressive guitar talents of Tony Rémy. Not forgetting of course Tim Cansfield, also on guitar and adding some fine work supporting Sarah and Tony’s unique sounds, and helping to create a nice warm feeling both in sound and spirit to this evening’s performance.
“Sweet Little Mystery”, The Songs of John Martyn featuring Sarah Jane Morris and Tony Rémy is also available as an 11 track CD album with all of the words to the songs in a well produced booklet. Read the words if you buy the CD, or just listen to them in concerts as there is, as we are told on video, only one real way to find out who “John Martyn” was as a person, and that is through the wonderful words and music of his songs, and that is true, everything is there, all of the many different facets and inner-conflicts that together made John Martyn such a very special person and songwriter.
Sarah Jane Morris Sweet Little Mystery
Assembly George Square Studios
Jul 31 Aug 1-11
Country: United Kingdom - England
Group: JPSM Management
Review by Tom King