Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Rebecca Martin: People Behave Like Ballads

Eight years ago, singer-guitarist Rebecca Martin should have earned Norah Jones-sized success when EMI released her sensational debut disc, Once Blue, recorded with her then musical partner Jesse Harris (who would go on to win a Grammy for penning Jones’ massively popular “Don’t Know Why”). Sadly, Once Blue went nowhere (though it has since been remastered and released with nine bonus tracks). Martin’s solo follow-ups, Thoroughfare and the standards-oriented Middlehope (the latter issued by Barcelona’s Fresh Sounds and, just so you know, still very much in print), didn’t cause much of a stir either. Now, with Martin added to MaxJazz’s increasingly impressive vocal roster and out with an album, People Behave Like Ballads, that rivals Once Blue in its raw splendor, here’s hoping she gets the airplay and attention she’s so long deserved. If so, ironically, chances are she’ll be categorized as the latest addition to the Jones school of soft-voiced, folk-jazz singer-songwriters. Such would, however, be an injustice. Not only was Martin around first, but apart from the ethereal beauty of her voice she’s really nothing like Jones.

If comparisons must be made, let’s give Martin proper due and credit her as the logical successor to Joni Mitchell. She sounds a little like Mitchell (if Joni were crossed with Cyndi Lauper, that is). More important, she echoes Mitchell’s depth and authority in her writing. As evidenced throughout the 16 tracks that fill Ballads, all Martin originals, she is fearless in her pursuit of gut-wrenching emotional honesty. Listen to the sagacious understanding of romantic conflict at the heart of “Here the Same but Different” (cowritten with guitarist Steve Cardenas) and the fundamental appreciation for the fulfillment that can be found in relationships’ challenges that defines “It’s Only Love.” Explore the devastating heartbreak of “It Won’t Be Long” (penned with Richard Julian). Hear the cautiously expanding optimism of “I’m Not Afraid” and the chilled disappointment of “Gone Like the Season Does.” Let Martin’s astute, erudite perspectives on the human condition wash over you, and you’ll know you’re in the company of emerging genius.

Originally Published