Who knew that a trio of Wisconsin and Iowa bluegrass and folk natives would find their home in Denver, Colorado? Well The Martin Gilmore Trio have done just that. Composed of band leader Martin Gilmore on lead vocals and guitar, Nick Amodeo on mandolin, octave mandolin and guitar, and Ian Haegele on upright bass. Colorado is graced to have such a tightly fit trio within their state, further adding to the new acoustic music that continues to grow there. And although relatively new to the scene as a trio, they have already toured all over the United States and Ireland.
This is the third studio release from Martin Gilmore, following his debut, all-original ten-song release back in 2009, and his second album East West (recorded in his previous home of Cairo, Egypt) in 2017. He has returned back to his roots for this newly formed trio’s first release which came out on January 26, 2021. They recorded it at Swingfingers Studios in Fort Collins, Colorado, with Aaron Youngberg and Loren Dorland engineering, and had the album mastered by David Glasser at Airshow Mastering, with the trio producing the project themselves.
Some associated achievements for the band include Martin’s notable performances all over the United States, as well as Europe and Africa, while more recently receiving a position as a guitar instructor at the University of Northern Colorado’s Folk and Bluegrass Program. He was also a founding member of the Colorado based band Long Road Home, alongside Ian Haegele, with the band winning the RockyGrass band competition in 2006.
Nick Amodeo is known as a well rounded multi instrumentalist, but specializes in mandolin. He won the prestigious RockyGrass mandolin contest in 2005 and more recently has performed as a sideman for the celebrated blues artist Otis Taylor.
Ian Haegele grew up in Wawatosa, Wisconsin and received a Master’s Degree in classical bass from the University of Northern Colorado. Aside from playing in the trio, he was a founding member of the band Thunder and Rain, and played with Martin in Long Road Home, and continues to play with several other Colorado based bands.
Now collectively known as the Martin Gilmore Trio, the group has worked to deliver an enticing and exciting mixture of original and traditional songs from the bluegrass and folk realms. This album seamlessly journeys through the Rockies and the Appalachian mountains with timeless stories and tasteful instrumentation. The differences and similarities between the progressive bluegrass and contemporary folk world goes hand-in-hand through the entirety of this release.
The first track introduces us promptly to Martin’s dulcet vocal tones on this original song Christina. The band works with ease to fill in the gaps between the vocal phrases, with mandolin taking the lead midway through. Guitarist, singer,songwriter, and Colorado native, Courtney Hartman guests on harmony vocals to provide the finishing touches to a catchy opening track.
We move on smoothly to You’re Not Even Trying which features Martin’s songwriting handiwork. Elements of The New Grass Revival’s influence trickles into the mix on this number, incorporating a catchy melodic riff, led by octave mandolin and driving upright bass along with soulful lead vocals.
On The Road To Allihies, inspired and named after the beautiful West Cork village of Allihies, brings us back into the folk and acoustic stringband realm with this original instrumental led by Martin. They encapsulate the beautiful Irish landscape and ruggedness into the delivery of this original tune.
We roll around to the popular traditional story song, The Golden Vanity (or also called The Sweet Trinity). Many will be familiar with the Crooked Still version of this old song. It was surprising and refreshing to hear an alternative melody deliver this old story so pleasantly. The trio does a great job with this straight ahead version, to create a full and thoughtful rendition.
I’ve Got The Blues swings us nicely into this jazzy original sung flawlessly by Martin hand in hand with harmony vocals throughout by renowned singer songwriter Mollie O’Brien. This track may cause you to dance a little in your seat!
The album’s halfway point Song So Sad, is another self-penned song from Martin, which has an uplifting melody amidst a saddening story. This track features Courtney Hartman again on harmony vocals, and Martin on octave mandolin, sharing the lead playing with Nick on mandolin.
Track seven brings to us the reflective and memorable chorus of I’m Not My Body. Written in the style of a contemporary bluegrass Gospel song, but with elements of new acoustic folk sounds. Mollie O’Brien guests on harmony vocals throughout with Martin on lead vocals. I loved following the arrangement move up and down, especially with the orchestrated textures of bass throughout this track.
Sweet Sunny South is one that most readers will be familiar with—whether it be the Hartford, Rice, and Clements version, or the recording by David Grisman and Jerry Garcia. This sentimental song about the south has turned up often in the repertory of traditional singers in the twentieth century and the 21st. The trio’s arrangement is a wonderful addition to the vast versions of this song, and showcases the band’s ability to deliver a heartfelt folk song whilst giving it a contemporary bluegrass twist. Grammy-nominated musician and songwriter Tim O’Brien guests on harmony vocals throughout, and it’s a treat to hear Martin and Tim’s similar voices harmonizing on this one.
We move on to the well known and uniquely titled old time number Shove that Pig’s Foot Further In The Fire. Octave mandolin, mandolin, and bass deliver a confident and effortless melody of this old time tune along with a beautiful old minor tune called Bonaparte Crossing the Rocky Mountains.
When You’re Young is a chirpy number with elements of Chet Atkins and Doc Watson influence floating around. It starts out with finger picked guitar and gradually adds walking bass and mandolin chops moving it along. Martin’s songwriting showcases throughout this song, with a message to the young to just do it, “because when you’re old you’re old, you can’t go back.”
The last track of the album bids us out with Freight Train Blues, written by John Lair and made famous by Bob Dylan and Roy Acuff. The trios version of this well loved train song incorporates floaty mandolin, strong guitar rhythm, solid bass and Martin’s high lonesome vocal, making this album finisher a recipe for success and making you want more.
The musical direction and journey that the trio has traveled through on this album is one of well communicated story telling, memorable melodies, tasteful improvisations and stellar musicianship. The refreshing harmony vocal appearances from guests Courtney Hartman and Tim and Mollie O’Brien have been a great choice of additions to this album.
What I like about this album is that the trio shares with us a mixture of traditional folk songs and well written originals that might be conceived as traditional folk songs too. One way I might describe this combination of material is that all of these songs seem that they will remain timeless. This is the sign of a well thought out, arranged, and well written album.
For more information on The Martin Gilmore trio, visit their website. The Martin Gilmore Trio album is now available through a number of music retailers, as well as streaming and purchasing platforms such as Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify.