Aaron Lee Martin is not afraid to embrace that man’s nature is steeped in darkness but what sets his music in the sunnier side of life is his ability to wrangle and direct those demons into the light. In search of joy and peace, Learned Behavior, is a celebration of life's lessons and Martin’s journey to transform dark into light.
With lines like, “If my enemy’s not real, tell me who am I supposed to fight? If my enemy’s myself, tell me how am I supposed to fight?” on the album opener, "The Beast", — finding the struggle in this record is not difficult and Martin’s voice is determined to find salvation. Starting with Martin and his acoustic guitar, Learned Behavior opens to a cacophony of friends joining to help orchestrate this beast of an album.
Recording started three and a half years ago with Martin’s friend Danny Brewer, using an off-the-grid recording studio in a remote part of north Georgia. Using a solitary solar panel for power, Martin and Brewer found ways of adapting to overcast or rainy days. Experiences like this probably birthed the lyric from "Something Beautiful", the second track on Learned Behavior, which repeats “Let it go, let it go, letting go.”
Unique recording spaces not being the first of challenges getting Learned Behavior prepared for release, both Martin And Brewer experienced some magnificent life changes, which pushed the release further back. Later, Martin experienced both ends of the life spectrum nearly simultaneously. Losing his mother found him crying out, likely not too different from the lyrics on the third song, "The Lonely One". “I can be lonely all by myself, I don’t need to be lonely with anybody else.” That experience was followed by his wife informing him they were expecting.
Learned Behavior excels at surfing the scope of life’s biggest experiences, while delivering them in a package as personal as meeting Martin himself. His charm and yearning to connect is evident throughout this seven song release. An experience many people from Wichita are familiar with, through experiencing his music live, Learned Behavior translates his charisma well through 2 speakers, whether in your ear or resonating from the corner of your favorite morning coffee chair. There are moments, as on song "Best Laid Plans", where it’s as if your surroundings as a listener are suddenly occupied by Martin and friends, singing directly to you, “I’ll keep singing the same old song, though the music it will change around me.”
Martin is adept at creating a mood and environment for his sonic tales of darkness. "Bloody Murder" evokes a scene dripping with humidity and surrounded by weeping willows. The mood is thick, though somewhat complacent — an attitude that something terrible has happened but not enough to let time go by without noticing. Not too different from what I recall of the follow up track, "Seven", to be in mood and context but without the murder part.
"Seven" too heart-wrenching a song for this reviewer to listen to again, places the listener square at the seven year mark of a marriage in demise. Don’t listen if you’re at the six-year mark of your marriage.
Album closer and namesake, Learned Behavior, gets even more personal. Moments feel like Martin’s hand is hovering nearby, while reaching out with his voice, contemplating, “I try to love like I wanna be loved. Is it all just learned behavior? Is it nurture versus human nature?”
There are many moments on Learned Behavior, that will raise the hair on your neck, illicit a smile, conjure a tear, recall a memory or delight in melancholy. There is a full range of emotion, and your story teller isn’t afraid to take you there because he has survived being there himself.
The release of Learned Behavior was celebrated June 29th at Abode Venue, Martin put together a special band just for the occasion. Welcome this gem of an album into the world, and don’t forget to grab a copy for yourself. http://aaronleemartin.com