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MARTIN SIMPSON "Righteousness & Humidity" Pure TSCD540

Simpson's previous CD, 'The Bramble Briar', is a hard act to follow, it was truly remarkable, and his return to the early influences of traditional English music produced a recording which won wide critical acclaim, and BBC Radio2's Best Album award. Wisely he hasn't attempted 'Bramble Briar - the Sequel', but you wouldn't expect him to would you? However, he has stayed with the revisiting of major influences from his formative years and this time it's the Blues and Country songs of the Delta, and America's deep south. Traditional American songs, ballads and the Blues share many common themes with English folk ballads - love and loss, crime and punishment, religion - and all are to be found on "Righteousness And Humidity".

The opening track, the story of anti-hero 'John Hardy', is set to full-on hard-driving guitar, bass, and drums and similar treatment is meted out to 'The Coo Coo Bird' and 'Rollin' And Tumblin''. Elsewhere there is simple, but splendid, acoustic slide guitar on 'This World Is A Trouble And A Trial'; fretboard and fingerpicking eloquence with 'Some Dark Holler'; superb frailed ukelele on 'Rico'; and he returns to his first love, the 5-string banjo, for 'Ghost In The Pines'. Blind Willie Johnson's 'I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes' benefits from vocals by Jessica Radcliffe, Martin's wife, and she is also on Gallivan Burwell's excellent 'The Devil's Partiality'. But the material on this CD shows that it isn't only the Devil who is partial to the South -Simpson's love of the music and the people of the Southern US. is obvious throughout this album, 'Georgie', 'Payday', 'The Last Shot Got Him' and 'Wild Bill Jones' (which finishes with an odd, and credited, rainstorm) are all testament to his great affection for Traditional American music and its exponents.

The CD has three tunes of his own composition, plus two self-penned songs, with New Orleans street life, and death, chronicled in 'Easy Money', and inspiration from a roadside truck-stop giving the bitter-sweet 'Love Never Dies'. The sleeve notes credit guest musicians Rick Kemp (electric bass, percussion), Carl Budo (drums), Amassa Miller (organ), Dave Malone (electric guitar) and Mike Skinkus (percussion), and additionally there are details on the tunings used and on the provenances of the songs. The CD was recorded in New Orleans USA and Robin Hood's Bay, North Yorkshire, but I defy you to see the joins! It is exquisitely produced and in all aspects is a more than worthy follow-on from 'The Bramble Briar'. The CD's title apparently came from a chance conversational remark in Nashville TN, "righteousness and humidity, that's a dangerous mixture" - well, I reckon everyone should have this bit of danger in their life!

Mel Howley.

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This album was reviewed in Issue 54 of The Living Tradition magazine.