Daphne Lee Martin is a huge fan of all sorts of music. Simultaneously, she's a gifted a prolific singer/songwriter. In the context, then, of the Great Flow Chart of her Career Path, this is both intoxicating and problematic.
On the one hand, the more music and artists Martin hears - and, with husband Rich Martin, she co-owns the astoundingly diverse Telegraph record store in New London - the more adventurous she gets. And the more she subsequently develops her own songcraft, the harder it is for her to keep up because, by the time she finishes one project and gets it into the marketplace, she's already written several more songs and ventured further down the creative highway.
Her latest CD, "Moxie," which will be celebrated tonight as part of the Hygienic Pre-Fix show at the Oasis Pub in New London, is a case in point. An evocative song cycle loosely reflecting the philosophy and moods of the title character - an "unapologetic whore," as Martin describes her - the record is a splendid, sultry, humidity-drenched soundtrack of dark bars, connective hangovers and the varieties of brothel-tasseled intimacy.
To go along with the new album, Martin, who for years has performed with the group Raise the Rent, will also debut a new band comprising guitarist/keyboardist Bill Readey, multi-instrumentalist Matt Lindauer, drummer Bob Burt and bassist Gary Velush.
As a writer, Martin is like a vastly creative and confident chef - blithely willing to experiment with seasonings and flavors such as blues, Gypsy, swing, Cajun, roots, cabaret and gospel. New and clever songs flow out of her.
It's not surprising, then, that even as Martin was in New Haven's Fuzzy Rainbows studio recording the new album with the help of producer Bill Readey and an all-star core of New London and statewide musicians, she was also writing and recording a quasi-companion record called "Frost" - the conceptual yin to "Moxie's" yang.
"'Moxie' is the bad girl, and 'Frost' is the sister project - down to the artwork, production and interlocking themes," Martin says. "Most of 'Frost' is in the can now, waiting on her big sister to spend herself. The songs on 'Frost' are more lighthearted to balance against 'Moxie.' The problem now is, I'm already writing and recording two more records. I guess I know what I'll be doing until 2015."
If time seems to be moving so quickly that Martin will never catch up with her own Muse, she finds the whole ongoing arithmetic ratio of her productivity actually benefits the work. For example, the "Moxie" material she originally wrote five years ago had, by the time she finally got into the studio to record it, plenty of time to marinate and become integrated with her ongoing learning process.
"I think if a song is good at its root, it should be able to translate into any setting," says Martin, who with Raise the Rent constantly experiments with arrangements of her material. "But this record was surprising to me because it was the first time I felt the songs had become real - like falling in love versus really deeply loving someone you've known a long time."
Indeed. Listen, for example, to the icily beautiful "Cheers, Darlin'"; the k.d. lang-goes-gypsy of "Molotov"; the trippy ballad "Belly"; or the spectral Euro-cabaret of "A Little Bit." They make it easy to appreciate Martin's studied but almost mystical approach to songwriting.
"There's a meaning and power that lives and grows beyond the first emotional experience that inspired the song or the catharsis of shaping it and sharing it," she says. "The song takes on a life of its own, and instead of you being the author of it, you are in a relationship with it. So, even though the words are the same as they have been for maybe four years, the way I tell the story holds a new kind of intensity and understanding."