On a small corner lot in southeast Portland, Oregon, Jeffrey Martin holed up through the winter recording his quietly potent fourth full-length album Thank God We Left The Garden (out on Portland’s Fluff and Gravy Records Nov 3). Long nights bled into mornings in the tiny shack he built in the backyard, eight feet by ten feet. What began as demos meant for a later visit to a proper studio became the album itself, spare and intimate and true. Recorded live and alone around two microphones, Jeffrey often held his breath to wait for the low diesel hum of a truck to pass one block over on the busy thoroughfare. During the coldest nights, he timed recording between the clicks of the oil coil heater cycling on and off.
“There was a magic quality to the sounds I was getting in the shack with these two cheap microphones, some lucky recipe of time and place that allowed my voice and the way I play guitar and the shape of these new songs to come together with the kind of honesty I was craving.”
So much has happened in the world since the release of his previous album One Go Around (heralded by No Depression as “the poetry of America”), and Jeffrey has filled the time doggedly, but happily, touring the US and Europe, watching it all unfold in a stream of small town conversations and city sprawl. In a moment where depth is so often traded for the instantaneous, where tech billionaires are building rockets to escape the planet, where the dead-eyed stare of artificial intelligence is promising to existentially upend our world, and where divisiveness in our culture is breeding delusional levels of certainty, Jeffrey Martin’s new record feels like a hopeful and fully human antidote.
The sounds feel warm, close, and refreshingly real, all held up by the richness and rare candor of Jeffrey’s voice. Production is restrained mostly to his guitar and vocals, with flashes of classical guitar for a tumbling wash of melody and low-end color. Martin’s voice sits high above everything, reaching into new melodic territory that goes beyond his earlier work. “I feel like I’ve only just learned how to sing,” Martin said. “Like I’ve been chasing this record since my very first recordings. I wanted to really see what I could do, just my guitar and my voice and little else.”
Beloved Portland-based guitarist Jon Neufeld added electric guitar to three tracks. Sticking to the same less-is-more approach, his playing skillfully and subtly elevates the lyrical intention. Neufeld also mixed and mastered the album, and was such a crucial part of the final feel of the record that Martin also credited him as a producer.
“Jon and I really produced this album together,” he said. “Me in the shack, and then him in his studio working with what I brought him as he mixed and mastered. It was such a treat to work with him. I brought this pile of rough songs and he was able to dial it in and make up for my complete lack of recording know-how. I love the performances I got, but Jon’s magic is what helped them breathe and truly come to life.”