As Cool as an Eddie Martin; Blues at The Southgate

It was a typical, standard Saturday night at Devizes Southgate, but a typical and standard night at the Gate equates to an absolutely blinding night in most other pubs……

Amidst friendly faces, welcoming staff and warm familiar surroundings, the unpredictable drizzling autumn was set aside for Mr Eddie Martin to group with the finest drum and bass section to grace the alcove, Tom Gilkes and Jerry Soffe respectively. And together they blasted us full in face with some sublime three-piece electric blues. An unchanged formula for decades, because it works.

Though Eddie himself is diverse, the last time I saw him he was solo, filling gaps between bands in at The Wiltshire Blues and Soul Club’s grand evening at the Corn Exchange, where clad in golden suit he executed vintage blues akin to Muddy Waters. A high accolade it may well be but fully deserved. With full horn section he went for the big band style recently at the Long Street Blues Club, but here at the Gate, he’s truly rocking the electric blues, in DMs, black jeans and one too many shirt buttons open. He can do this, with apt blue shades and shaved head he looks the part, and certainly sounds it.

With a few blues covers, but nothing immediately recognisable or cliché, Eddie mostly rolled out original tracks from his plethora of albums, in a suitcase at his feet. This matched the appreciation of the slight but blossoming crowd. It was, in short, electrifying yet cool as a cucumber; an electrified cucumber, if you will. In fact, I could skewer the idiom to cool as an Eddie Martin!

Nimble on the strings, with extended instrumental breaks of mesmerising proportions, he polished those songs right there before our very eyes, and it was something to behold. I believe, if memory serves me well, my top drunken exclamation was a rather Punch and Judy, “that’s the way to do it,” because it is.

Not that this was the night I had planned, intentions were to get to Bath for a bit of ska and boss reggae with Ya Freshness, but difficulties with non-existent public transport meant I’d have to drive, and being I’ve galivanted elsewhere the past few weekends, sometimes one desires a few too many ciders, where everybody knows your…erm, cue classic American sitcom theme, because it’s apt. The Southgate is that dependable tavern, which hasn’t failed me yet, and neither on this occasion either.

Eddie, a local bluesman of international calibre knows exactly what he’s doing, Devizes renowned blues circuit love him for it. Not only does he know his way around a guitar, but he also even attaches his harmonica holder stylishly and he knows how to rouse a crowd. Which means I don’t make comparisons to blues legends lightly, but justifiably, and the thought hangs on the Howlin’ Wolf. Needless to say, I had a great night, and even flagged a taxi home with ease, cool as an Eddie Martin, what is this now, 2019? No one gets an unbooked taxi in a rank at midnight in Devizes anymore; luck is a lady!


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