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SIMON HAWORTH "Taking Routes" Fellside FECD172

Scarily it's over eight years since Simon emerged as part of the new wave of young British instrumental thrusters, breaking cover with input to the important 'Evolving Tradition' CD. As bassist with Jez Lowe's Bad Pennies since 1998 and more recently adding a partnership with fellow Penny, Andy May to his musical CV, his star can fairly be said to be in the ascendant.

This second solo Fellside album sees the guitarist/singer-songwriter from Morpeth taking an entirely self-written path. Beautiful yearning melodies and tales draw inspiration from the wilds of the Northumberland/Cumbrian countryside he obviously knows and loves so well. The people and places of those lands that populate his songs are wide-screen - no small town concerns here.

Opening track the vivid 'Rory's Still' has its hero, whisky running south from the Borders and hanged for his trouble. Elsewhere 'Young Henderson's' tale of a ghostly robber is epic in the best possible sense whilst 'The Lookout' with its reflections back to WW2 from an old soldier's non rose-tinted hindsight is gently affecting. Howarth writes, plays and sings with unmatched elegance and a fresh creative flow gives this exhilarating album an adventurous spirit. Supple musicianship colours the instrumental tracks 'Myrdal' which just has Simon's guitar and the subtle mood shading on 'An April Day' written for his sister's birthday adds Andy May's piano with fiddle from Stewart Hardy. The supporting cast on this release also features Rachel Unthank, Terry Howarth and Steve Lawrence.

Haworth has assembled a collection of material here that marks him out as a gifted writer, capable of penning the charming as well the powerful and majestic and there's no better flagship for literate, passionate erm, "Britfolk" than this fully realised album. One of the year's finest releases so far and warmly recommended.

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 53 of The Living Tradition magazine.