Words by Billy Rough
It’s hard to believe it’s been 11 years since Martyn Bennett’s Grit was first released. The last album recorded before his untimely death in 2005, it exhibited the exceptional promise and talent that this extraordinary musician so effortlessly exuded. Take for instance the opener ‘Move’, which combines fragments of traveller singer Sheila Stewart’s version of ‘Moving On Song’ layered over an unrepentant and infectious dance track. The fusion reinvigorates the original track and reinforces its topicality and vitality. Or perhaps ‘Nae Regrets’, which sees the inimitable Dundee voice of Annie Watkins matched to that of Édith Piaf in a bombastic celebration with a subtle Eastern flavour. Since 2003 we’ve not only lost Bennett but also that great voice of contemporary Scots song Michael Marra, whose authoritative tone provides such a petrous narration on ‘Liberation’.
The re-release includes two bonus tracks: ‘Sky Blue’, a remix of a Peter Gabriel track, and ‘Mackay’s Memoirs’, Bennett’s final recorded work. The pleasures of Grit will always be bittersweet, but it was and remains a remarkable, thrilling and wondrous piece of work. It’s Martyn Bennett who we must thank for much of the resurgence of traditional Scottish music today. This CD should be in everybody’s collection.