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Fast Heart Mart

Albuquerque's Musical Ambassadors to New Zealand

Found in: | Inside | Music |
It's nearing midnight on Dec. 19, and I'm outside Albuquerque's Guild Theater waiting for the premier of Fast Heart Mart's new Rockumentary, "Put Me On an Island," chronicling his 2007 tour through New Zealand. The long line of fans running down the sidewalk at this late hour testifies to Fast Heart Mart's enduring popularity in the Duke City. Recently voted Albuquerque's Best Singer-Songwriter by the Weekly Alibi, Fast Heart Mart, aka Martin Stamper, plays a unique brand of subversive urban-desert-folk-rock that resonates well here.

The film, produced by Martin's musical partner and girlfriend Roblyn Crawford, traces their journey from Albuquerque to Auckland and on down to Christchurch where they rendezvous with other members of the Stamper clan for a rare family reunion (Martin's mother is from Christchurch). It's an unpretentious, often campy, window into their lives as they tour New Zealand in a $50 car.
After suffering multiple blackouts as a teenager, Martin was diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia, a condition that causes his heartbeat to periodically race out of control. Fortunately, doctors implanted a defibrillator in his chest that automatically shocks his heart back to normal. Hence the moniker: "Fast Heart Mart."
Raised in Virginia, he was steeped in bluegrass from an early age, his father's side of the family having produced Smithsonian Folkway's Hiram Stamper and Bluegrass Hall of Famer Art Stamper, both renowned fiddlers. "I've always hoped that Fast Heart Mart was an extension of the bluegrass thing," says Martin. "I've taken some parts of bluegrass and gone in a different direction with it."
That direction led him to fuse his Appalachian influences with strands of punky, indie-rock and East Indian music among other things, producing a danceable amalgam full of unexpected twists. Martin likes to keep it acoustic because, as he tells DJ Darlene of RDU FM in Christchurch, "I think the end of the world is coming... and I'm writing music that can be performed without electricity." For more on that topic, listen to "Mayan Prophecy," the first track off his Cheap and Sunny album ("Cheap and Sunny" being how he describes life in Albuquerque):

Watchin' pop culture (gone)
Gettin' in a stupor (gone, gone)
Bein' distracted (gone)
By the latest fashions (gone, gone)
Watchin' MTV will be no more
When we all are livin' poor
Civilization shut it door.

Says Crawford, "The only other well-known artist I can think of that can take bluegrass and mix it with hip-hop and East Indian music is Beck."
In fact, Fast Heart Mart has opened for Beck, but although they play all manner of stages, Martin and Roblyn are also consummate street-musicians, or "buskers." Consequently, they timed their New Zealand tour to coincide with the 15th annual World Buskers Festival in Christchurch.
A memorable scene in the movie captures their first street-performance in Auckland, Martin wearing his iconic double-necked acoustic guitar, (which he keeps in two different tunings) and Roblyn wearing a snare drum around her neck, marching-band style. As they attract a dozen dancing New Zealanders, it's heartening to witness the enthusiastic response to these ambassadors of a distinctly American sound. According to one fellow interviewed, "I was walking down Queen Street with my friends . . . and we came across Fast Heart Mart, and . . . it was such a refreshing sound . . . and we were just drawn to it."
Although his songwriting spans a wide spectrum, Stamper is particularly focused on issues of money and wealth discrepancies, penning numerous comical songs about miserable jobs and being broke while the rich live on the hill. Take "Hate Job:"

I went to my stupid job today
I hated it so much, but I went anyway
I hate my job
I have to go again tomorrow . . .

Having spent the last five years touring relentlessly on a shoestring budget, Fast Heart Mart is an inspiration among the Albuquerque music community. Still, the starving artist life can wear thin. "The words of my father kind of haunt me," says Martin. "He said ┬?It's okay to be broke and a musician now, but when you're fifty, its not going to be so funny.'
"But you have to have faith," he continues. "I think that in life you just gotta do what you want to do and believe its gonna work out."
Being broke all the time has led Stamper and Crawford to become exemplars of the do-it-yourself approach to modern music, doing their own recording, filming, booking, publicity, and automotive repair. Furthermore, Stamper founded Mutant Mariachi Records, which has become a collective of Albuquerque talents like Young Edward, Whispering Doug Parker, Chokecherry Ranch, and Evernorm.
Mutant Marachi isn't concerned with glossy, hi-fi production; they'd rather just get their material out. According to Crawford, "I know so many musicians who are like ┬?I haven't put out a CD yet because I want to get it just right' [and consequently never do], but we just do stuff and put it out."
"Put Me On an Island" is no exemption; it plays like a well-edited home movie. In the end, it runs a bit long and gets a little heavy on the family reunion aspect of the trip, but nonetheless, it offers an unassuming, humorous glimpse into the lives of two uniquely creative individuals that just might inspire others to follow their own eccentric dreams.

Eric Carlson finds his groove in Santa Fe, N.M.

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