Review: Classic Country Tunesmith Layng Martine Jr.’s ‘Music Man’ is a Late Life Gem

Layng Martine Jr.
Music Man
4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Call it the ultimate labor of love. In 2016, veteran producer Tucker Martine wanted to give his dad, Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee Layng (that’s not a typo), a unique, memorable Christmas present. He called musician friends, inviting them to his studio to reprise his father’s songs, some written more than five decades earlier and long forgotten. Seven years later, we can hear the results.

The older Martine might be under-the-radar as a lauded country songwriter, but over the decades he penned 15 Top 40 country hits (two notched at No.1) for artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, The Pointer Sisters, Ray Stevens, and plenty more. He was even Grammy nominated for Reba McEntire’s rendition of his epic ballad, “The Greatest Man I Never Knew.”

This wonderful set collects a dozen Layng Martine Jr. originals—several quite rare, a few never recorded by anyone—most dating from the ’60s and ’70s, although one as recent as 2012. They were chosen by Tucker and sung by his then 74-year-old father.

Layng’s voice sounds, quite amazingly, like someone a third his age. That’s especially true for the retro pop of “Summertime Lovin’,” the peppy, witty, puppy love ditty “Love Comes and Goes,” (Oh I have found a girl that I am mad about, sad without, can’t live without/I have found a love that truly wears me out) and “Get Your Things,” a deceptively jaunty tale of a guy kicked out of his home with the forceful Get your things, get a bus, get away. Ouch.

Although the elder Martine generally wrote for country acts, there isn’t much twang here. Rather the songs lean towards a smooth but never slick countrypolitan style, even when occasional pedal steel appears. The opening title track ballad accompanied by strings and a soulful backing trio (including Laura Veirs), tells the story of the singer as a late-night DJ who is gonna stay with you all night long and fill your soul with song. Some selections, like the instantly memorable pop choruses of “Little Bit of Music,” written in 1983 for his wife, could have been hits for The Monkees or Ricky Nelson. Actually, most of these beautifully crafted confections fall into that category.

Credit the younger Martine for capturing the youthful energy his dad infuses in every track while keeping the sound organic and even contemporary. Each tune exudes a clear, ringing melody you’ll sing after the first spin. Guests like guitarists Bill Frisell and Peter Buck (producer Martine handles drums), fit seamlessly into the whole. Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood, himself the son of famous musician David Hood, provides history and perspective with earnest liner notes. And Layng writes short, dry-witted, humorous commentary for each cut (Released as a single by me… to inaudible fanfare), bringing more context and his charming personality.

It’s a fun, frisky, breezy listen, one that Hood closes his writing saying it’s a record I plan to return to again and again.

You will too.  

Courtesy Propeller Publicity

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