Jeff Martin, Exile and the Kingdom

After disbanding The Tea Party in late 2005, lead singer/guitarist/producer Jeff Martin took off to Ireland to record his debut solo outing appropriately entitled Exile and the Kingdom. Backed by a new label, management firm and band, Martin revisits the bluesy, Middle Eastern-influenced, acoustic rock that he explored on TTP's 1993 debut Splendor Solis and 1995's Edges of Twilight. From the opening track and first single "World is Calling," it's apparent that Martin (who plays bass on Exile) and drummer Michael Lee (Page & Plant) simply aren't the dynamic rhythm section that Stuart Chatwood (bass) and Jeff Burrows (drums) were in Martin's former band. Exile isn't all bad though. Key tracks like "Angel Dust" is bathed in brilliant sonic ambience, "Black Snake Blues" is the bluest song Martin has written since "Turn the Lamp Down Low," and "Good Times Song" is a fun country hoedown. But the song that caught me completely off guard was the epic "The Kingdom" which features richly layered strings, a full gospel choir, and Martin's most moving vocal work in years. Exile demonstrates that Martin should have an interesting solo career, despite having to mine sounds from his Tea Party past this time. It will be interesting to see how his sound evolves the next time around. (Nevada/Koch Entertainment)

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