Musical ‘refugee’ out of retirement | SteamboatToday.com

Musical ‘refugee’ out of retirement

More than 30 years ago, a musical young “refugee from the plains” found his way from the coffee houses of the Twin Cities to Colorado’s Front Range.

From there, Bill Martin quickly migrated to Steamboat Springs, where he resumed his musical career. Martin’s clear baritone and a fingerpicking style that made his Martin guitar ring out like a bell allowed him to work apres ski lounges from Jackson Hole, Wyo., to Telluride.

Nearly a decade into that perpetual gig, Martin found himself working in a hotel in Steamboat Springs, playing two sets a day for 120 straight powder days. It proved to be too much, and he put away his guitar to become a ski patrolman, a fine woodworker and even Steamboat Springs City Council president.

Now, all these years later, Bill has taken his Martin D-42 out of retirement. The eclectic but wonderfully sequenced mix of Colorado folk music, vintage Beatles, jazz and even bossa nova on his new CD, “Since You’ve Asked,” reaffirm his decision.

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Casual listeners will enjoy the nostalgic tunes, while serious guitar players will be listening closely to try and figure out, “How does he do that?”

With formal training in classical finger style and the complex chord turnarounds of a jazz player, Martin has adapted his own style and translated it onto familiar folk melodies, bringing them new depth that the original tunesmiths didn’t achieve. You can hear it in Don McLean’s “Castles in the Air,” which wasn’t written about Colorado but ought to have been.

And it’s there in the John Lennon-Paul McCartney classic, “Norwegian Wood.” Even in the most obscure augmented chord, Martin always manages to find the melody, while his fingerpicking rolls on.

The CD was recorded just around the corner from Martin’s Steamboat residence, at Valverdant Studios, with engineer Scott Singer and assistant engineer Tom Schwall. The recording is of remarkable quality, and pulls all the depth out of the single voice and guitar.

This is a CD for unabashed romantics who grew up with Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra on the hi-fi. At the same time, it’s a CD for people who identify with the Colorado high country.

The CD kicks off with one of Martin’s own instrumental compositions, one which establishes his picking credentials. There’s also a chilling tune, written by Anthony Matthews, about the perils of driving on Rabbit Ears Pass.

Bill Martin is playing gigs around Steamboat again. He’s older and wiser now — he won’t play 120 days in a row. But if you’re lucky, you’ll catch his act at the Creekside Cafe.

The CD is available at All That Jazz.

— To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com


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