JULY 24 – 30, 1996


Three Sheets On Four Strings

By Jonathan Perry


Every once in a while, an artist or a band comes along that makes music so graceful and haunting – so compelling – that it quietly obliterates everything else in its path. In 1996, songwriter Jeff Martin is that artist and Idaho is that band – his band.


Three Sheets To The Wind (Caroline), Idaho’s third full-length album which was released earlier this year, is the kind of record that pitches you deep into the dead of night and lingers with you there; the kind of record that convinces you that three o’clock in the morning is the perfect time of day – the only time – and makes you wish the moments would last forever. Or at least a little while longer. Needless to say, Three Sheets is already threatening to be Idaho’s masterpiece.


The disc, a languorous, moody beauty that at once sounds intensely personal yet magnanimous and open is freighted with the measured movement, hushed vocals and minor-chord drama that characterizes the slow-core melancholy of bands like Acetone, Red House Painters and American Music Club. But Martin’s gift for writing utterly magnificent songs with lyrics like “late December is what I’m feeling” somehow make labels like “slow-core” seem silly, trivial. And his penchant for odd tunings on his signature four string guitars shade Martin’s songs with strange, hazy colors.


Before assembling a bona fide band for the new album, Martin – a classically trained pianist who began writing music in earnest in 1992 – basically recorded two albums as Idaho on his own (with the help of a small backing band on his second outing This Way Out, also on Caroline).


But the current – and, for now permanent – Idaho lineup of Dan Seta on guitar, Terry Borden on bass, Mark Lewis on drums and Martin on just about everything else demonstrates that Martin has sacrificed nothing by enlisting outside personnel. The warmth and texture of sound suggests a band that is fully allied with Martin’s vision. It is a vision that is both tender and trenchant. In short, remarkable.