Sunday, January 26, 2014

Martin Simpson - Vagrant Stanzas

Martin Simpson, Vagrant Stanzas
I am really a rock music fan. If you browse my CD collection, it is mostly rock. Planet Rock is permanently tuned into my digital radio. However, I have a quieter side too, and that betrays an admiration for folk music. By no means all folk music, however. I find some of it excruciating. But when it's good, it's hard to beat.

A few years ago I went to a gig called the Four Martins. It was a guitar playing evening, 4 guys called Martin each with a distinctive style, and it was very enjoyable. And the best of the four to my ears, was Martin Simpson.

Subsequently, I did nothing about following up on this chap, but by chance recently I came across an advert for this album, his latest. I had a quick listen on Spotify and ordered it immediately, in fact the "Deluxe Limited Edition" version, with an extra CD included.

It is Martin Simpson playing a guitar or banjo and singing... that's it. But it sounds fantastic, it's just bliss. To me anyway - my missus thinks it's a bit dreary. Well yes, I see her point, there are very few upbeat songs here, it is all a bit sad... typical of folk music generally I suppose. In fact one track, "Jackie And Murphy" - I defy you not to have a tear in your eye by the end, and an anger of the injustice the story of the song portrays - read the sumptuous sleeve notes to find out more... quite moving.

So the songs are written by Simpson himself, or are arrangements of traditional British and American tunes. The production is unobtrusive but perfect for the music. The guitar playing is superb and the singing... well elsewhere in this blog I review a Kate Rusby album and repeat the cliché that she has the voice of an angel. There's no reason I couldn't use the same phrase to describe Simpson's voice, but it don't sound right, do it? Let's settle for the fact that his voice is just perfect for what he's singing, can't imagine how it could be bettered.

Very highly recommended, 10/10, you could buy it here.

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