Martin Simpson. Home Recordings. Topic Records

What’s a multi talented artist such as Martin Simpson to do when everything around him shuts down? Answer – hunker down, and record an excellent album. In his illuminating sleeve notes, Simpson explains how he chose what to put on this collection of covers and a few of his own songs, relating several of the choices to the situation concerning Covid. With time to renew his banjo technique and finding delight in arranging familiar songs in a particular tuning (CGCFCD if you need to know), Simpson seems to have found the exercise something of a refuge amidst what he describes as “the chaotic, greedy and ultimately near murderous way that populist right wing governments” have managed the crisis.  

The album is an impressive showcase for Simpson’s voice and instrumental skills (on guitar, banjo and Ukulele) as he roams through UK and American folk traditions with ease. Several instrumentals, in particular, the Ukulele tune, Augmented Unison (recorded on Simpson’s phone while sitting on his garden deck), are simply superb, while the better known covers (The Times They Are A-Changin’, Angel From Montgomery and October Song) are all worthy additions to the many other versions recorded of these hallowed songs. However, it’s when Simpson delves into the real folk tradition that he really excels. 3 Day Millionaire/Don’t Put Your Banjo In The Shed Mr. Waterson is a lovely tribute to the late Mike Waterson and the banjo driven Child Ballad, House Carpenter is quite spine chilling. The pinnacle of the album is Simpson’s reading of The Plains Of Waterloo which is as atmospheric as Ry Cooder’s work on Paris Texas.

Simply put, Home Recordings is an album which is quite gorgeous from start to finish. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it to be – just listen to it or delve in and research the notes – and it’s certainly a fine way to while away your time as you wait for that vaccine.

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One thought on “Martin Simpson. Home Recordings. Topic Records

  1. finds Martin singing and playing, literally amongst his beloved guitar and banjo collection and out on his Peak District-facing porch. “As the pandemic progressed we began to lose friends and peers. John Prine left us in April and I played for him at home. I was focused on material some of which I ve known for 50 plus years, some I ve recorded before and revisited out of love. I played songs over and over to finesse the arrangements, but in the absence of a live audience there was an additional intimacy. I wanted to capture this feeling and so Andy Bell and Tom Wright set up in the living room and I played and sang in the music room. I ve included two recordings made on the deck outside the back of my house. I spent a lot of time playing to the valley.” – Martin

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