Martin Goyette – Big Beets | Album Review

Martin Goyette – (MG’s) Big Beets

Ad Litteram, SODEC Quebec

CD: 10 Songs, 49:39 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues, Soul and Jazz, Harmonica Blues, All Original Songs

You know who popped into my head yesterday, for no obvious reason? Ray Charles, specifically singing “What a Wonderful World.” Keep that image in your mind, Constant Readers – or, in this case, your ears – as you take a taste of Martin Goyette’s Big Beets. Although he’s from Quebec, my ears could definitely hear Charles’ gravelly influence and good-natured humor. You know how one of the most common French phrases that English speakers know is laissez le bon temps rouler? Goyette sure knows how to let the good times roll, whether in English or his native tongue. The nine original tracks on his tangy album with a punny title are mostly about having fun, whether on a “Night Out” or “As Long as We’re In Town”. For those of you who crave harmonica blues as much as pizza and nacho chips, this album will suit your tastebuds. One big plus: For an artist who has only released two albums, to nail the second one as well as Martin does is a near-impossible feat. We blues fans expect him to ascend higher, and soon.

“Born in St. Henri,” reads his promotional biography, “Goyette started listening to Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson, which inspired him to start playing the harmonica at 18 years old. In 1997, he shook the Quebec blues scene with his group, the Dirty Blues Band, and in 2002 he won Le Prix de la Relève at Festiblues International de Montréal, leading the formation Riverside Blues. Then he toured France as an opening act for another Quebec blues artist, the legendary Bob Walsh…Martin Goyette is also known throughout Quebec as a participant on the TV show La Voix (The Voice).”

Performing along with harpist and lead vocalist Goyette are Jarrod Atkinson on bass; Chris Tauchner on keyboards; Jim Bland on guitar; Louis-Etienne Drouin on drums, and Mary-Pier Guilbeault on background vocals.

The following three songs are guaranteed to liven up any party, whether they’re in French or English.

Track 01: “St. John Morning Blues” – Jim Bland’s electric guitar intro is to die for, calling images of back alleys on rainy nights to mind. The song’s a ballad about being down and out, only having “thirty-seven dollars” and having “women on my mind.” Some people accuse the blues of being depressing, and listening to this album’s opener, they’re only half-right. Things may not be going swimmingly for our narrator, but he’s not about to give up by a long shot. Having “one of those days?” Goyette and his posse are, too, and they’re right beside you.

Track 03: “Mirza” – Full disclosure: The only parts of this song I could understand were its title and “La-la-la-la-la-la.” Never fear! Get out of your seat and on your feet, because this is one of Martin’s biggest “Beets”! It has a funky 1970’s vibe, courtesy of Jarrod Atkinson’s bass beat and Chris Tauchner’s keyboards. The tempo is a nice, swinging medium, neither too fast nor too slow for those who want to dance. Even if it’s not Mardi Gras, give “Mirza” a top-volume try.

Track 06: “Bottle of Champagne” – What goes well with the adult beverage in the title? “A seafood platter,” according to our Quebecois (say this instead of “Quebeckian”) hero. Mary-Pier Guilbeault performs sassy background vocals on this ode to relaxation. It’s another danceable number, but in the case of a certain blues reviewer, it made her hungry instead of hyper…

Martin Goyette and his Big Beets sure are tasty!

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