Billie Ray Martin describes herself as “a kid from Hamburg’s red-light district, who wanted to be a soul singer, but ended up playing repetitive machine music, while still trying to be a soul singer".
Billie has never been easy to categorise. Clearly a soul singer, her career however has seen her mostly as a pioneer of house and electronic music, most notably her groundbreaking work with Electribe 101 and her seminal hit Your Loving Arms. Her explorations have led her further into the worlds of ambient music and drum & bass among other areas of electronica.
Her 2001 album 18 Carat Garbage had found her in Memphis, recording with Al Green’s and Aretha Franklin’s musicians, then adding cutting edge electronic sounds and textures to the production once back in Hamburg. The album was released in Germany, and on UK import sold several thousand copies in the first week of release alone.
The Soul Tapes is the natural conclusion and a ‘first’ for Billie: no electronic music this time. Billie realised her long-held dream of recording an album that is equally influenced by Hi-Records (Al Green, Ann Peebles, Willie Mitchell) as it is by ’60s garage records. It is also not devoid of a certain country twang, and even Bo Diddley peeks through the door on one song.
Billie Ray Martin and producer/writer Jon Tiven were introduced in New York in the mid ’90s and had started drafting the odd song, together with Sally Tiven. Further writing sessions followed, until it was decided that there was an album of songs worth recording.
Booked into New York’s 900 Broadway Studio, Jon and Billie were thrilled to find themselves working where Keith Richards had recorded his first solo album. Under this omen Jon Tiven brought the musicians in, not least world famous drummer Simon Kirke. Jon’s credits include albums produced for Wilson Pickett, Bobby Womack and Willie Nelson as well as numerous awards and Grammy nominations.
It was not until 2014 that the opportunity arose to mix the album, re-record many of the vocals, add production and instruments and determine exactly the final sound of the album.
The results are convincing and powerful and show once again Billie’s refusal to conform to trends, preferring as she does, to create them. On The Soul Tapes, with the help of Jon Tiven on guitar, Sally Tiven on bass, Simon Kirke on drums and mix engineer Steve Honest, and a variety of guest musicians, Billie journeys through all things soul and rhythm & blues. A soul tour de force!
The Soul Tapes Tracklisting
1. Your Ghost Is Right Behind Me 2. Two Cents For A Heart Of Gold 3. Strongheaded Woman 4. That's How Strong My Love Is 5. The Glittering Gutter 6. One Way Street 7. The Long and Lonely Fall 8. The Fool You're Looking For 9. Skin On The Wheel Of Time
Billie Ray Martin - The Soul Tapes is out this Friday 20th May on Sonnestahl Records and SRD/Rhythmethod