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James Martin, “Something’s Gotta Give” (Independent) Review by: BRETT MILANO Offibeat magazine
“It ain’t nothing you don’t already know,” singer/saxophonist James Martin declares at the start of this disc. And musically speaking, he’s right: The song lodges in a familiar, yet enjoyable post-Meters funk groove, and with one exception, the tracks here are pretty much what you’d expect from a musician who cut his teeth playing sax in Trombone Shorty’s band.
That one exception is a real ringer, though: “Another You” is a love ballad with absolutely zero characteristic New Orleans sound—it falls more into a throwback singer-songwriter mode and could pass for, say, a vintage Seals & Crofts track if not for the sousaphone doing the bassline. You’re not supposed to let your guard down and get this sentimental on a funk album, but it sounds like Martin’s getting close to the heart here—the lyrics about trying to be with someone else when you’re not over a breakup. The sincerity works and in all honesty, this kind of song is far more suited to his singing voice than the funkier stuff he attempts.
Read between the lines and this is a loose-knit concept album, with the title track sounding a bit like the recovery songs Anders Osborne was writing for a while; it’s a deceptively upbeat one about the consequences of bad habits. And though “Too Much Blues” was borrowed from James Booker, it fits the album’s tone by celebrating a fresh beginning, and it’s creatively arranged with only brass for accompaniment. A little more of this—and a little less of things like the standard-issue cover of “Southern Nights’—and Martin could carve out his own corner of the funk world.