Jethro Tull’s Martin Barre – Away with Words (2013)

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There is much to recommend here for Martin Barre’s stalwart Jethro Tull fans, including sensitive new takes on eight lesser-known Tull tracks. He even takes up the flute. It seems, before he moves into a still-vibrant future, Jethro Tull’s long-time guitarist aims to reclaim his corner of the band’s legacy. Largely acoustic, and ageless in its simple beauty, Away with Words — due this week from RSK’s Edifying Records — begins in a telling way: Barre pairs the sun-filled original “First Light” with Jethro Tull’s “Moths” from 1978’s Heavy Horses.

And so it goes, for most of Barre’s new album: “One Brown Mouse,” also from Jethro Tull’s Heavy Horses, flows into “Fat Cat.” “Snapshot” morphs into “Paparazzi” from 1984’s Under Wraps.”Spare a Thought” becomes “From A Dead Beat To An Old Greaser” from 1976’s Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! “Fire at Midnight” from 1977’s Songs from the Wood leads directly into “From the Ashes.” The effect is to make clear his legacy, even as Barre forges — with a remarkable delicacy, considering some of the monstrous solo asides he’s taken on the electric guitar at Tull shows over the years — ahead on his own.

To be sure, Away with Words is more of an appetizer than multi-course meal for those looking for something determinedly new. The imaginative “All Bars Hold” is a tasty, if ever so brief, glimpse into the magic of his stand-alone work; “Sundown,” with its remarkable double-tracked guitars, opens with a classicist’s flourish before Barre begins constructing a thrilling finale. There’s no small amount of catharsis in his scalding turn — finally! — on the electric guitar. But, just like that, Away with Words is over.

Along the way, both “Pussy Willow,” from Jethro Tull’s 1982 effort The Broadsword and the Beast, and “Protect And Survive” from 1980’s A are given complete, but never too careful, readings. Meanwhile, former Tull bassist Jonathan Noyce is on board, and the Celtic-infused “Lament of the Spalpeen/Martin’s Jig/Hymn” finds Barre taking up former bandmate Ian Anderson’s instrument of choice — as definitive a move as there could be for those wondering what’s ahead for a musical partnership in Jethro Tull that has stretched back to 1969.

If it is, in fact, all over (and all signs, both here and in the Anderson camp seem to be pointing that way), then Away with Words serves as both a stirring valedictory and a too-often tantilizingly brief introduction into the next phase of this criminally overlooked figure’s musical journey.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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