When we start digging into Connecticut based singer-songwriter Daphne Lee Martin’s promo material, we realize that this genre bending we’ve been listening to throughout her consistently brilliant, compelling and heartrending new album Scared Fearless can’t, by design and her embrace of artistic freedom, be contained easily by typical attempts to categorize. While we listen to instrumentation that includes brooding electric guitar, wistful violin and a plucky banjo, we read that her vibe is a “unique blend of folk and blues,” and then we’re regaled with some cool regional accolades in the country and pop categories.
What all that means is that Daphne Lee Martin is that glorious artist who embodies the true spirit of indie music-making. She dares us to focus on the blend of hushed beauty and raw power of her voice, and the literate, hard hitting poetry of her lyrics, whatever musical setting they may find themselves couched in. The fact that this generous 13-track collection was written on the road, during a few of her lengthy solo tours, is perfectly in line with Martin’s shift from the fictional observational storytelling of many of her previous albums to a spirited, imperfect zig-zag flow expressing her own travel-weary stories of life lived and wisdom earned as a lifelong musician.
Martin’s rootsy, tasty, multi-subject travelogue has some eye-popping titles that demand attention over a simple track by track chronology. From the soul-rock rootsiness of “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down” to the plaintive simmering folk/blues driving “Till We Meet Again,” most of the stories she weaves from experience have a timeless quality that could be expressed at any point in time. Ditto one of the sweetest tunes, the graceful piano and Rhodes splashed note of encouragement “John Henry’s Lullaby.” Yet the title “Fuck Tinder, I’m Standing Right Here” is so in our face, in the modern zeitgeist, it screams to be heard first. What’s ironic is that the title is pure clickbait. The loping blues pop/rocker doesn’t have those harsh words anywhere in the song itself, a reminder to an ex flame that she’s still more real and of finer quality than a random chick he can meet on an app.
Another cool title-lyric fake out is “I Hope I Never Meet the Bitch Who Broke Your Heart,” which may lead us to expect a country barnburner. Instead we’re given pure searing balladry ruminating painfully over a lost musician love. The title is all false bravado. The song finds her more rational and vulnerable, as she sings “And who will be the one like me, who’ll take you home/I’ll take comfort in knowing I got nothing but the timing wrong.” Yet another provocative title that peels our initial attention is “Rainy Day Women #42,” an obvious wink to Bob Dylan via a slow burning song about the folly of engaging in vices and the ongoing temptations they present.
The dichotomy between title and lyric speaks of Martin’s keen ability to express raw emotion but with a wink that tells us that she’s not hurting as bad as she once was. She can find humor even in the pain – and that’s the happy result of living a life so fully and deeply that one can even be Scared Fearless.