The Tea Party were, to some, one of the most important bands of the 90s. Their blend of heavy blues, post-rock electronica, middle-eastern scales and hedonist mysticism was the perfect sound for the times, and yet it hasn’t dated in the way many of their contemporaries have. if anything, the Canadian trio’s music now seems even more timeless.
The Tea Party broke up a few years ago but band leader Jeff Martin has continued to make music, both under his own name (the brilliant Exile & The Kingdom) and with The Armada. His newest venture, Jeff Martin 777, is a power trio which builds on the musical vocabulary of The Tea Party, rather than simply tries to repeat it. Martin’s cohorts in the venture are J Cortez (Sleepy Jackson/The Armada) on bass and Malcom Clarke (Sleepy Jackson/The Basement Birds) on drums.
Lead single and title track “The Ground Cries Out” is a monster opener, with mysterious atmospherics and a Bonham-like rhythm groove, punctuated by swirly, ringing guitar textures and a snaking Middle Eastern melody. “Queen Of Spades” has a 70s bluesy rock feel, all 12-string acoustic guitars, slapback delay-drenched vocals, roomy drum sounds and rounded bass tones. “She’s Leaving” starts out tentatively but soon morphs into a classic Tea Party-like slow epic. It’s followed by “The Cobra,” which revisits the groove of “Temptation” but in a more organic way, stripped of the electronica and with lots of fuzz and dirt in its place.
The second half of the album is more acoustic-driven. The band revisits the propulsive bluesy on 1916, while things get decidedly Asian on The Mekong, with authentic instrumentation and melodies. It’s a nice detour which sets the stage nicely for “One Star,” a strummed, acoustic-driven epic augmented with a few “No Quarter”-style warbly sounds and stirring strings. “Blue Mountain Sun” is a contemplative instrumental with multi-tracked guitars and sunny, pedal steel washes, while “Santeria” maintains the acoustic vibe while augmenting it with warm electric guitars and big, ambient drums. “Riverland Rambler” keeps the acoustic/big drums/big bass sound going, but the stomping rock groove of the album’s first half returns for the closer, “The Pyre.” The stop-start riffage and rich orchestration makes this one hell of a ‘headphones’ track and a fine note upon which to close out the album and point to where Jeff Martin 777 may go in the future.
LINK: Jeff Martin 777