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MARTIN SIMPSON - Trails & Tribulations

MARTIN SIMPSON - Trails & Tribulations
Topic TSCD593

Some 41 years since his Golden Vanity debut, Martin Simpson offers up his 20th solo album, which in many ways signifies a turn to his original minimalist style, mostly accompanying himself on guitar or 5-string banjo. Kicking off, Blues Run The Game, Jackson C Frank’s lament to life on the road that I had thought previously had been done to death by myriad others, is injected with the MS tasteful open tuning guitar that lifts it to a new dimension. Similarly, his new offering, A Ballad For Katherine Of Aragon, is a delicately constructed ballad of deep substance. His own Maps, harking back to his childhood years (again), demonstrates how he has crafted his songwriting to the ultimate definition of the artform.

My favourite of all is Simpson’s own Thomas Drew, which is a modern acoustic blues about the person shot by John Hardy in a crap game for 25 cents (Hardy himself is celebrated in dozens of songs, but his victim has been neglected – until now).

The album’s closer is an acoustic working of Reynardine – previously an electric triumph from Fairport’s Liege And Lief, here with a delicate instrumental backing that gives it a solid new life.

A deluxe edition (not available for review) includes such gems as Willy O’ Winsbury and Heartbreak Hotel, of all things. Probably worth the extra punt, but the basic album itself alone is a cracking demonstration of how far this artiste has come – and bodes well for the future. Also available in vinyl, for those of us that way inclined. Brilliant.

Grem Devlin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 122 of The Living Tradition magazine.