Martin Simpson – Home Recordings

Album Review | Topic | Review by Allan Wilkinson

There’s evidently an unexpected plus side to the lock down after all, the fact that Martin Simpson’s planned live album had to be cancelled and is instead replaced with a bunch of home recordings, which sound as intimate as you’re likely to get.  There’s an immediate sense of place where you feel like an invited guest, along with the birds that you can hear on one or two of the performances, notably the gentle instrumental “Lonesome Valley Geese”. “Geese!” exclaimes Martin mid flow. Martin is doing here what he does best, that is to locate timeless gems, treat them to a highly personal arrangement, polish his nails, pick up his guitar (or banjo or ukulele) and then work his magic.  In this case, there’s a dash of Dylan “The Times They Are A Changin’”, a portion of Prine “Angel of Montgomery”, a wee dram of Williamson “October Song”, a lick of Lyle Lovett “Family Reserve” and more than a tad of trad “Deliah”, “Plains of Waterloo” and “House Carpenter”.

This is nothing new for Martin Simpson, who has really been doing this for decades, but somehow, Andy Bell and Tom Wright have helped create a sound that is essentially live, but devoid of auditorium noise or indeed the clattering of pint pots at the bar.  Hearing Martin’s own reading of “Admiral Benbow” is an unexpected surprise, the song having already been visited on the superb 1980 album A Cut Above, but this time without the help of June Tabor or indeed the Prunettes!  Martin also revisits his own “An Englishman Abroad”, which is sprinkled with vivid characters from his New Orleans days, together with a perfect guitar accompaniment, which is a reminder of why this musician is so important.  This is an album to listen to over and over and which could only really be improved upon had there been some interference from the cat.