Album review: MARTIN SIMPSON – Home Recordings

MARTIN SIMPSON – Home Recordings

Topic Records [Release date 13.11.20]

Martin Simpson’s next album was going to be a live one but the first lockdown put paid to all that. Unable to play to audiences (he can average over 100 gigs a year) or go into a recording studio, the only solution was to record a new album at home.

Martin commented – “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.”

The playing of Martin Simpson is a delight to listen to, be it the short, but sweet ‘Lonesome Valley Geese’ (with a guest appearance by local geese!) or his banjo picking on ‘3 Day Millionaire/Don’t Put Your Banjo In The Shed Mr Waterson’.

The reworking of the traditional song ‘Admiral Benbow’ is a treat. One of those songs that has a historical narrative and will be one to hear him perform live once the gigs resume again.

His take on Lyle Lovett’s ‘Family Reserve’ is stunning – just the vocals and guitar, whilst John Prine’s ‘Angel From Montgomery’ is another highlight. Robin Williamson’s ‘October Song’ (from Incredible String Band’s eponymous debut album) and of course, Bob Dylan’s ‘These Times, They Are A-Changin’ resonates now as much as when the song originally came out.

Aided by guitar, banjo and ukulele Martin Simpson has adapted to the times and gone back to basics, recording at home, to produce an album that demands, and indeed rightly deserves, your attention. ***1/2

Review by Jason Ritchie


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