Friday, 9 September 2011

Martin Simpson - Purpose + Grace

Savouring Simpson

Presumably Martin Simpson wouldn't apply this album's title to himself, but it does. The song selection and their narratives, traditional or contemporary, are purposeful in the best of folk storytelling, and the guitar and banjo playing of Simpson is pure grace, ably supported, for example, by the likes of Richard Thompson on Springsteen's Brothers Under The Bridge, as well as others throughout this excellent spread of 13 songs.

There's a beautiful version of Brother Can You Spare a Dime and even more potent rendition of Ewan MacColl's Jamie Foyers with the great Dick Gaughan's empathetic vocals on both, reprieving his from 30 years ago, apparently, for the second track.

Another graceful offering is of Richard Thompson's Strange Affair with vocal by June Tabor, again a reprieve of a duet Simpson and Tubor had previously recorded in 1980 - one I don't know and will search out. Barbry Allen is a haunting traditional melody where guitar and vocal coalesce to perfection. This is followed by an upbeat and ale-inviting spurt of an instrumental Don't Leave Your Banjo In The Shed Mr Waterson. The album closes cooly on Irish ballad Lakes Of Ponchartrain, delivered with Cajun flavours to aurally savour - and wait for the echo of Mardi Gras Little Liza Jane to fully close out the song and album.

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