Daphne Lee Martin started her music career at 8 years old, when her folk~singer mother pulled the car over to the side of the road. It was oldies radio playing, the Ronettes singing “Chapel of Love” and Daphne was singing along alternating harmony lines. Growing up in southeastern Ohio, the family had always been around a great wealth of white gospel, Appalachian ballads, classic country and Old Time fiddle and banjo music. She was never one for the raucous numbers, but stuck mostly with the torch songs and does to this day.
At 17, Daphne & her mom and sister released an album of harmony rich traditional songs and a few originals as the Windlasses with Safe Harbor Music in Mystic, CT under the watchful care of international folklorists David Littlefield, Rick Spencer and Craig Edwards, whose specialties lay in old time and maritime traditions. Daphne immediately fell in love with the tall ships, maritime music and sailing she saw there~ something completely foreign, exotic and romantic to a gal who’d never lived near the ocean or even in a city. So, she put her guitar in her car and drove to New York City to get involved with the Folk Music Society of New York, South Street Seaport Museum and to cut her teeth on performing in the jungle of the big apple.
Following the path of the trio singing she’d always known, she joined forces with Erica Smith and Alison Kelley to form the “trio of sultry songbirds” Ida Red who have played traditional music with innovative, punky arrangements for the last 12 years, touring across the country a few times. Through the Folk Society, she had an opportunity to work closely with Heather Wood (The Young Tradition) David Kleiman (Water Sign) and John Roberts (Roberts & Barrand) and to do programs with Jean Ritchie, Jerry Epstein, Jeff Warner, and dozens of other pillars of the traditional music community from the US and abroad. This was when she realized she could write songs in the style of the songs she’d loved since childhood. She realized her relationship to song was as a translator, she could bring an archaic art form into the modern tongue. In fact, she had a good chuckle teaching a workshop at nineteen when she presented an original piece of music to a ballads panel who asked her for her source, thinking for certain she’d brought it from some obscure village in Appalachia.
But after a few years and the realization “New York’s not my home” the sea called, and Daphne took up with the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater community using music as a means of teaching sustainability, environmental science, and the importance of traditions to the communities of the future. After all, somebody has to carry the torch of the beautiful legacy of folks like Woody Guthrie, Jean Ritchie, Alan Lomax, Pete Seeger and all the countless musicians who have given us these old songs. South Street Seaport’s working schooners were a good place to start, and Daphne took off on Pioneer & Lettie G. Howard, then moved on to Stamford (Soundwaters), Seattle (Adventuress), Milwaukee (Denis Sullivan), New Jersey (AJ Meerwald), Long Beach (Californian), and for nearly 2 seasons Baltimore (Pride of Baltimore II) traveling to all four coasts of the US as well as Bermuda and the Caribbean. But being on the water, as romantic a journey as it was, left very little time for writing, and even less for performance. By 2002, it was time for the real music to begin.
New London, CT was the home base for the group of musicians who’d helped Daphne Lee get started with the first album, it was on the water she knew she could never fully leave, and frankly it was best little town she’d ever set foot in over all her travels. It readily became home. Easing into it with her final schooner, Mystic Whaler, she set to really writing her first fully formed songs. With a little luck, she and long-time friend Craig Edwards hooked up with Phil Agins, Thor Jensen, and Sebastian Coppotelli who’d been playing Hot Club style covers and they all formed a string band supporting Daphne’s original songs, giving them their signature swing.
But as things do, things were bound to change: Thor was signed to a label in LA, Sebastian found a full time home with post punkers Fatal Film and Phil is somewhere in heaven showing Jerry Garcia a thing or two. Daphne forged on, with a new outfit focused on a harder, darker edge incorporating drums and electric guitars into the set and leaning ever harder on timeless melodies and arrangements inspired by the tin pan alley writers of the 20s and 30s and of course, Tom Waits. She developed a vocal style based on the chanteuse sticky-sweetness of Blossom Dearie and the twang of Patsy Cline and Neko Case. Over time, that band you know as Raise the Rent has come to weave together many of the sounds of southern roots music with a completely fresh voice and a roster of truly phenomenal musicians performing or recording, including roots-jammer John Waynelovich (Barefoot Truth), Danny Motta (Roomful of Blues), Bob Burt (Johnny & the East Coast Rockers) and brilliant songwriters in their own rights, Craig Edwards, Brad Bensko, Matthew Gouette, Sandy Allen and Jim Carpenter.
Their first full length album, Dig & Be Dug hits the streets on November 1st courtesy of the Telegraph Recording Company. Daphne and her husband Rich also own an independent old-school vinyl record shop, The Telegraph.
When Daphne isn’t performing with Raise the Rent, she’s playing solo, with duo-partners Sandy Allen, Sam Perduta, Bill Readey, Craig Edwards, Jim Carpenter, and John Fries, or with Ida Red.