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Martin Simpson - Home Recordings

  by Nicky Crewe

published: 25 / 1 / 2021

Martin Simpson - Home Recordings
Label: Topic Records
Format: CD


New collection of recordings from highly regarded singer and guitarist Martin Simpson hits exactly the right note for the strangest of years

Martin Simpson’s 'Home Recordings' takes me back to March 2020 and reminds me of the shock of the implications of the pandemic. We all realised we wouldn’t be enjoying live music in its many forms for some time. As it turns out, a very long time. From the months of lost opportunities, cancelled tours and gigs and postponed rehearsals and recording sessions, a flurry of online concerts and performances and new ways of working began to emerge. Martin Simpson has responded in a way that for me encapsulates so much of the mood of this year with a special collection of songs and tunes, performed simply and acoustically sometimes including friends and family on backing vocals. It has all the magic of a living room concert or a precious evening’s entertainment in a favourite folk club. This album makes me long for those opportunities to return and comforts and reassures me that one day they will. Fans will know something of his back story. He’s a musicians’ musician, He plays beautiful guitar, embraces the contemporary folk scene and has made a name for himself both in the States and here. I’ve seen him play intimate acoustic gigs in village halls and folk clubs. I have bumped into him at my local wholefood shop, with that strange shock of familiarity and recognition you get when you see someone you have watched with rapt attention. It’s followed by embarrassment as you realise they have no idea who you are! He’s also the man who Jackson Browne drops in on for lunch in the garden when he’s playing Sheffield. Martin Simpson used the time available in the first lockdown to focus, reflect and practice. He went back to studying fingerpicking banjo for the first time since his teens. He revisited tunes and songs from earlier in his musical career, with all the associations and memories they brought up. We are about the same age, so many of the musical memories in these songs and tunes chime with my own. We have enjoyed the same music, perhaps even been at some of the same folk clubs. Notes with the CD include not just the background to his choices but also the tunings for each track. As I said, a musicians’ musician. American influences are represented by John Prine’s 'Angel From Montgomery' and Lyle Lovett’s 'Family Reserve'. His time living in New Orleans is recalled with his own song, An Englishman Abroad. He revisits Reverend Gary Davies’ version of 'Delia', a fifty year long relationship. There’s also a moving version of the Dylan classic 'The Times They Are A-Changing', relevant for every generation as history continues to be made as fast as we live through it. There are links to his past collaborations with June Tabor with an instrumental version of 'The Plains of Waterloo', and Admiral Benbow. Robin Williamson and mid sixties Incredible String Band is conjured up by 'The October Song'. There’s a compelling version of traditional song 'The House Carpenter' and a great tribute to Mike Waterson in the version of '3 Day Millionaire'/'Don’t Put You Banjo In The Shed Mr Waterson'. 'March 22nd 'and 'Lonesome Geese' are home recordings made on his phone. Along with the beautiful photo of a sunset in the accompanying booklet, these recordings celebrate the natural world. Connection with nature became increasingly important to so many of us during the spring and summer of 2020. The album is also dedicated to Greta Thunberg and wildlife photographer Geoff Trinder. The rest of the tracks were recorded with the assistance of Andy Bell and Tom Wright.

Track Listing:-
1 Family Reserve
2 Lonesome Valley Geese
3 Deliah
4 Wren Variations
5 October Song
6 Three Day Millionaire / Don't Put Your Banjo in the Shed Mr Waterson
7 Angel from Montgomery
8 Plains of Waterloo

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