FINE SONGS, IMPECCABLY PLAYED
Way back when, Essex singer, guitarist and harmonica player Martin McNeill supported Mississippi Fred McDowell.
The experience obviously left its mark. In addition to fronting the band Bottleneck Blues, he also works as a solo artist -- that's how he does this set and it more than amply demonstrates he can play a mean slide guitar.
The title track -- known to man from Cream, of course -- is returned to its originator, Doctor Ross, with its unison guitar/harmonica performance.
Martin also reveals his love of classic soul and r'n'b with covers of material by such artists as Aretha Franklin, Ike & Tina Turner (a beautiful instrumental rendering of I Think It's Gonna Work Out Fine drawing on Ry Cooder's cover), Little Walter, John Lee Hooker and Ray Charles.
He references the UK blues scene with Fleetwood Mac's Albatross. Then again he reaches way back to the earliest days of the blues with Hesitation Blues.
Martin's vocal sound very English -- no affectations.
Produced by Pete Crisp and Tim Aves, this comes across very much as a labour of love. It is actually in rsponse to requests from Martin's audiences and it's definitely recommended if you want some very fine songs, impeccably played.
Blues In Britain magazine
Martin McNeill's Cat Squirrel is one of the best blues releases I have heard in the past few years. In fact, correction, one of the best releases I have heard in the past few years of any genre.
While it will greatly please blues fans, who will be wowed by the great musicianship and singing - and the gorgeous bottleneck blues in particular - its remit is far greater.
Martin takes some classic songs and delivers them in his own wonderful atmospheric style, not an easy task when you are performing such legendary tracks as Fleetwood Mac's Albatross, Unchain My Heart, Route 66 and others.
I loved this album on the first listen. It is excellently produced and totally classy. If I could only do a one word review it would be easy. "Beautiful" would be the word.
aka Blue John
Blues musician and owner of Blue John Media music promotion
OUTSTANDING, A STUNNER
There are some sounds that get inside your head and stay there forever. Longer ago than I care, to remember, I first heard Blind Willie Johnson‘s Dark Was the Night, Cold Is the Ground. I thought it was one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard. That was followed by Ry Cooder’s Paris Texas and now, here’s another one.
This album by Martin McNeill, is simply outstanding. Beautiful melodies. beautifully played and has some excellent singing as well. The sound quality is magnificent and if you don’t fall in love with the sounds on this album, then I regret to say there is something seriously wrong with you!
Immaculately recorded and produced by Pete Crisp and Tim Aves, the albums brings you bottleneck blues of all flavours from oldies like the title track Cat Squirrel by Dr Ross and the ubiquitous Hesitation Blues (here assigned to Billy Smythe but actually a traditional tune with added words, often changed by the more than 40 artists who have covered it) to Albatross, the Peter Green/Fleetwood Mac classic, and a delightful version of the superlative pop/R&B hit Unchain My Heart.
In short this one is, IMHO, a stunner and if you love guitar sounds is a MUST for your music shelves.
IAN K McKENZIE
Blues In The South magazine
AN ABSOLUTE DELIGHT
Martin is one of the busiest solo acts on the British blues scene and has just released his latest CD.
The album is called Cat Squirrel and comprises nine covers of songs and tunes that have been gracing his live set for a couple of years now.
Kicking off with the Dr Ross penned title track and ending with Little Walter's Can't Hold out Much Longer, the CD really does capture the man doing what he does best.
Martin's love of the blues shines through and as the years go rolling he has grown in confidence. It means he is now sounding very much his own man and his latest calling card will only add to his long list of admirers and collaborators.
Cat Squirrel was made at Rooks Yard Studio in deep darkest Essex, well away from the bright lights of the big city. Produced by Pete Crisp and Tim Aves, the album has a sparce sound, allowing every single note to be heard and savoured.
This CD is an absolute delight. It includes one of my favourite Ry Cooder tracks, I Think It's Gonna Work Out Fine. That song was originally recorded by Ike and Tina Turner in 1961 but, quite rightly, Martin has based his rendition on the beautiful arrangement by his hero Ry on his classic Bop 'Til You Drop album.
Cat Squirrel is available for £7.50 from Martin's website or for a fiver at gigs. It's picking up airplay on my BBC Suffolk show...
East Anglian Daily Times
A MATCH FOR U.S. BLUES
It's always good to hear a British-made blues album that stands up against recordings made on the other side of the pond. That in itself is not unusual. After all, the Brits have been making great blues albums since the early 1960s when the UK helped resurrect the careers of several American greats who at that time weren't exactly being embraced by their homeland.
Nevertheless, when a modern day release matches what our American friends are putting out, I still like to shout about it.
I reckon Essex-based bluesman Martin McNeill would have been in short trousers during the first Brisitsh blues boom but well over half a century later he is helping keep the genre alive and in the process breathing new life into it.
Since retiring from the newspaper business a few years back Martin has concentrated on honing his craft as a musician, so much so that he is now regarded as one of this country's very best bottleneck guitarists.
Martin and I share similar tastes in music which is why I have been drawn to his various takes on the blues. He is passionate about the genre and that comes across in his playing.
He is no poor imitation of what came out of the Mississippi Delta in the first half of the century. Quite the reverse in fact. He stamps his own authority on the country blues of the past and some more recent closer-to-the-mainstream material from the likes of Don Covay, Fleetwood Mac, Nick Lowe and Ry Cooder.
Cat Squirrel is the title of Martin's latest album. It's his third and was recorded at Rooks Yard in Southmnster, a new studio run by Automatic Slim's Tim Aves and his good buddy Pete Crisp. I must congratulate Tim and Pete on a very classy production.
Martin's beautiful guitar work is very much to the fore but I must also flag up some fine harmonica work and, of course, his warm vocal style.
If I had to pick a favourite it would have to be a coin toss between I Think It's Gonna Work Out Fine and Chain Of Fools.
Martin is very much in solo mode on this album but is often out and about with various musicians in different formats. Martin's versatility has helped him become one of this region's busiest performers.
Check out www.martinmcneill.co.uk to find out when he's next playing near you. Do go and see him and don't leave without buying a copy of Cat Squirrel -- you'd be nuts not to!
HOW TO BUY THE CD
The CD can be ordered for £7.50, including post in the UK. Contact Martin by phone, email or Facebook message and he will send a copy and sort out whatever payment method suits you.
07967 339 809
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* OR PICK UP ONE FOR A FIVER AT A GIG