REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Beverley Martyn returns with new LP featuring previously unheard Nick Drake track

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

Partially recorded just months before his death in 1974, British singer songwriter Nick Drake collaborated with one of his muses, Beverley Martyn, on a track that features on her new album The Phoenix And The Turtle.

The album opens with its biggest USP. Unheard Nick Drake track, Reckless Jane. Recorded at Martyn's home in Hastings in the spring of 1974 during a jam session where the two wrote lyrics and began work on the music. There it stayed, languishing and unheard by Drake's loyal fans until Martyn finished the track in order for it to appear on her new album, The Phoenix And The Turtle (released 22 April). Unlike comparable contemporaries like Jeff Buckley (who doesn't have a copy of Grace?!), Drake is very much 'cult'. Superb albums like Five Leaves Left and Pink Moon are a staple on the 'must listen to' lists but rarely hit the BBC 6Music airwaves or The Guardian's kudos list. This could be down to Drake's battle with depression and his unwillingness to be interviewed or to perform live. This making him somewhat enigmatic and inaccessible. This track is what you'd expect from Drake - folky, acousticy, sad and just lovely. Apparently written about Martyn and two other of his muses, both called Jane. Reckless Jane is an ode to a girl who's 'full of fun and fancy free' and 'so things will never be the same'. It's a story about unrequited love and loss. Loving something so carefree and free-spirited from afar only for the object of your affection to end up being the mother the six children all from different fathers with no regrets. It sounds like Drake is a voyeur to this tale, as he watches her 'smiling through the pain'. This is typical Drake with sweeping strings, multi-chord guitar and tinkling piano.
I get the impression Drake is in awe (hence the muse part, I guess) of Jane's spunk and philosophy of life. Perhaps being able to do with ease what Drake's demons held him back from. This makes this track all the more discerning. 
Sometimes there's a reason a recording was left gathering dust in a forgotten studio or in a suitcase in an attic - perhaps its creator never wanted it to be heard. Drake has proved that there are hidden gems that should be listened to and enjoyed. Second track, Potter's Blues, is very derivative folk from yester-year. The androgynous Marianne Faithful-esque vocal almost grates against what should be a pretty, sedate track about new beginnings based on an idyllic past. This track doesn't really go anywhere. It doesn't have any killer hooks, profound lyrics or intricate guitar rhythms of the previous song. This leads to third track, Going To Germany. I'm not entirely why she's going to Germany, but she'll be back some old day. It seems it's to get away from a troublesome, apathetic father. As much as I love the post-modern Bohemia of Berlin, the grotty edge of Hamburg and who can say no Oktoberfest, it's an unusual escape route. By the forth track, the initial excitement of Reckless Jane has all but disappeared. Sweet Joy was everything but. It was a slow, stripped back song that much like it's predecessors went no where. One track merges into the other without much differentiation between them. It never really evokes any emotion. Sometimes there's a touch of Americana interwoven with Britishness. But the Americana sounded artificial and insincere. I can't tell you how lovely it is to hear fresh tracks from Nick Drake. We've been bombarded  by posthumous tracks from Tupac and Eva Cassidy for years. And as controversial as Tupac is, the offerings by these artists have been... well, boring. However, that's where it starts and stops with this album for me. I think Martyn is trying to repeat Marianne Faithful's renaissance with Broken English with this album, but unlike Faithful's heartfelt, cerebral, whisky-soaked sound - this left me cold.
4 out of 10