The songs on the new album, One Go Around, from Portland Americana songwriter Jeffrey Martin come from an intense whirlwind of activity in Martin’s life, as he balanced full-time work as a high-school creative writing teacher with a touring schedule that saw him flying out for gigs on the weekend and grading papers on the plane home. Martin’s since quit this job to go full-time as an artist, but the stories he heard from his students when he was teaching and the stories he gathered on the road have stayed with him. These are stories of an America left behind, of working-class people struggling to keep their heads above rising waters, of people trying to find love in a time of heartlessness. His students plumbed the depths of their own lives to learn how to write, and the intimacy of the connection they and their families had with a beloved teacher in a rural Oregon (a small town of 5,000+ people) brought the stories home hard for Martin. At the time, Martin was immersing himself as well in American literature, in the books and short stories he was teaching to his students or reading on the road, like Raymond Carver, Annie Proulx, and John Steinbeck. On One Go Around, Martin intertwines the blunt poetry of these great American writers with the kind of careful songcraft that too often goes unnoticed, and with a true writer’s eye for the smallest details that deliver the strongest punch in a song.
One of the more powerful songs on the album, “Billy Burroughs,” touches on the shocking story of beat-generation author William Burroughs’ casual murder of his wife during a drunken party in Mexico. It’s a brutal indictment of fame and the arrogance of powerful men that resonates far beyond the original incident. It pairs also with more political songs on the album, like “What We’re Marching Toward,” which laments the callous gamesmanship of American politics, or “Hand on the Gun,” which meditates on the human cost of our rights. “Poor Man” pushes back against the sadly popular idea that poor people are essentially lazy. In “Sad Blue Eyes,” a young man mistakes brokenness for love in a small town, and the cycle continues.
There’s a quiet dignity to the stories on One Go Around, but a kind of quiet desperation as well. The stories hit hard, because we know we may not be far off from them ourselves in this time of uncertainty. There’s a sense of hope too, the kind of hope that Martin instilled in his students, encouraging them to follow their dreams no matter the cost. It’s this hope that in turn inspired him to leave his teaching to become a full-time musician, for how could he encourage this in his students if he wasn’t willing to do it himself? Now that he’s left the day job behind, Jeffrey Martin tours hard, and he’s become known on the West Coast Americana scene as a kind of songwriter’s songwriter, a writer that other artists turn to for inspiration.
RADIO ADD DATE: October 10, 2017
ALBUM RELEASE DATE: October 13, 2017