Real World Records plans to reissue the iconic album ‘Grit‘ (CDRWG114) by the late Scottish musician Martyn Bennett. The release date in the UK is May 19, 2014. The release will coincide with a music-theatre-dance production celebrating his life.
‘Grit‘ is considered Martyn Bennett’s most extraordinary work and his final project. It is an intensely emotional collection of traditional singers – primarily Travelers – presented through an inventive avalanche of sounds and beats, rooted in the past but glorying in modern dance culture.
Grit was originally released on October 13, 2003. During his short but exceptional career, Martyn Bennett was one of the most exciting, daring and innovative musicians working in Scotland.
Martyn Bennett appeared on stage, hair flailing in all directions, playing traditional tunes on bagpipes or fiddle while a thunderous sound system pounded out beats and samples behind him. His music was a landmark meeting of traditional Scottish and electronic music.
Grit was Bennett’s finest work and his final project before losing his courageous battle to cancer in January 2005, age 33. Grit featured the voices of traditional singers like Jeannie Robertson, her daughter Lizzie Higgins and Gaelic singer Flora McNeil. These were the singers Martyn Bennett was raised on and for him Grit was a deeply personal and painful album. He battled with cancer of the lymphomas throughout the making of it, experiencing widespread chemotherapy and radiotherapy and even a bone marrow transplant. Unable to play himself, Grit was his exclusive artistic outlet, although an incredibly difficult one.
The Real World Gold reissue of Grit features two bonus tracks. The first is a remix of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sky Blue’, which Martyn had worked on at Peter’s request.
“Sadly we only had the opportunity to work with Martyn towards the end of his music-making,” explains Peter. “I loved how he created and handled his work. There was always a mix of intense emotion, compassion and pride, served on a bed of atmosphere and rhythm. When I was working on the song ‘Sky Blue’, I felt that it had some of the elements that could provide natural raw material for Martyn. He gave us a beautiful remix, and very sadly it was the last thing he did.”
“‘Sky Blue’ was the last thing Martyn worked on,” remembers Kirsten Bennett. “I think doing that remix gave him a bit of a boost – and he actually had lots of fun doing it. I remember him asking if we thought the big low loud rasping sample at the end of the remix was ‘too much’. I said maybe, and then Martyn looked with his cheeky wee smile and went ahead and put in an extra one! He said ‘well I like it, I hope Peter Gabriel isn’t offended’. And then he had a wee giggle to himself. Pushing the boundary as usual!”
The second bonus track is ‘Mackay’s Memoirs’ – Martyn’s final recorded work. This is a superb piece featuring pipes, clarsach, voice and orchestra, first performed in 1999 at the opening of the new Scottish Parliament by the students of The City of Edinburgh Music School, for whom the piece was written. This recording was made in early 2005, and completed the day after Martyn’s death. Produced by close friend Martin Swan (Mouth Music), it also features Martyn’s favorite ensemble Mr McFall’s Chamber with percussionists Tom Bancroft and James Mackintosh.
“I am very honoured to have been asked to write this piece for the talented students of The City of Edinburgh Music School and I hope that, most of all, this is an apt celebration of youth that will see our heritage firmly united for generations to come,” said Martyn Bennett.
The reissue of the album coincides with the opening of Grit: The Martyn Bennett Story. The production forms part of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Cultural Programme and will showcase at two locations – Glasgow’s Tramway from 3-7 June (with previews on 30/31 May) and Mull Theatre from 20-22 June.
Presented by Pachamama Productions, the show is directed by Olivier Award winning theater director Cora Bissett and written by one of Scotland’s talented Kieran Hurley. GRIT will take the audience through Martyn’s incredible life journey – unveiling the story of his musical imagination, passion, fierce love of life, music, the country and people who inspired his ground-breaking creations.
“Martyn was a phenomenal creative force, making music which was way ahead of its time and I am really excited to present his story to a whole new generation who may not be aware of the amazing work he produced in the short life he had,” explains Cora. “Both in the context of the Commonwealth Games and our referendum year, I feel Martyn is also a potent icon of a Scot who had the deepest respect and love for his heritage and was passionate about finding ways in which his culture could meet, and connect with others. To tell his story now is to tell a tale of ambitious dreams and possibilities.”
To reflect the vibrant yet delicate layers within his music, world-class trapeze artists and stunning choreographed dance moves from Montreal based choreographer Dana Gingras will come together to create a visual extravaganza, set against the backdrop of Martyn’s legendary dance music in its original form.
“Martyn took the soul and passion of the roots of Scottish music, and planted them in a modern, electronic world,” says Peter Gabriel. “I’m delighted that through this project we are all reminded of what an extraordinary talent we have lost, but can now continue to enjoy.”
GRIT: The Martyn Bennett Story
Tramway One, Glasgow – 30 May-7 June 2014
Druimfin, Mull – 22-22 June 2014