Playing two sets, each of over an hour, Martin Simpson showed why is widely regarded as one of the finest slide and acoustic guitar players of his generation.
Known mainly as an English folk artist Simpson crosses into American folk, hardly surprising as he lived in the States for 15 years. He has an interesting style of adapting slide guitar into the traditional folk oeuvre.
Beginning with an original composition St James’ Hospital, morphing into a cover of Blink Willie McTell and back again, Simpson showed his versatility and skill. This track epitomises his style of beautiful and effortless finger-picking guitar playing with added slide.
With 45 years as a professional, Simpson has developed into an accomplished storyteller, taking the trouble to explain the stories behind his songs. There was one about Slapton Sands in Devon and another about previous band mates from America called Henry Gray And Zac The Cat.
As is the wont of a folk singer there was the odd protest/political song, notably Palaces Of Gold about the Aberfan disaster. There were poignant songs about his parents, Dancing Shoes about his mother and Never Any Good about his father.
Simpson played a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Brothers Under The Bridge and a lighter moment came with a cover of Elvis’ Heartbreak Hotel.
Simpson began his musical career as a banjo player and he finished his show with two songs on the instrument, with remarkable playing on Bones and Feathers and an encore of Born Human.
Review by Chaz Brooks