That’s kind of how I came across Martin Simpson. Via some musical connection & recommendation and a distant memory of a name I started to follow him as he toured around the UK and I have to confess I had never heard him play.
Reading about him here or any related site you get to the basic point that he is a very accomplished guitar player. So, on a snap decision (no dice I’m afraid) as he was in town, I got to see him on Saturday at the Glee Club in Nottingham.
And it’s true! He is an amazing guitar player. Absolutely spell binding, dextrous, imaginative and expressive. He’s also a very nice bloke and obviously deeply in love with his art form and its history. With 40 years making a living from his skill he has travelled widely and immersed himself in the songs and social histories of British, American, European and Asian music.
This was the set (and apologies if some of the titles are amiss). A wide ranging list of songs from both sides of the Atlantic, ancient & modern.
Brother, can you spare a dime. A 1930’s Depression era song writtem by ‘Yip’ Yarberg and previously recorded by numerous artists including Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Tom Waits and strangely George Michael.
In The Pines. An Appalachian folk song from 1870. The first noteable version by Leadbelly or , since covered by everyone including Nirvana (as Where Did you Sleep Last Night). Dylan also plays it live, as did the Grateful Dead.
Sir Patrick Spens. An ancient mariner song from the album TrueStories. The song is noted to be as old as 1290 and is listed in the Child Ballads, a sequence of Scottish & English folk songs on which the basic themes of many later songs are based.
Brothers under the Bridge. A Vietnam song Bruce Springsteen written for his first album which I’d never heard before. Due to appear on the new album ‘Purpose & Grace’.
Bold General Wolfe. An historical song about a British general, now I know where the pub in Coventry got it’s name. My british historical knowledge isn’t great! Read about him here.
Will Atkinson. A song about a Northumbrian folk singer.
Louisiana. An original song with a hook a little like Tom Waits ‘Christmas card from a Hooker in Minneapolis.
When a Knight won his Spurs. Another original song described as a children’s hymn with god removed.
Home Again. A more contemporary sounding original song from True Stories about travelling.
Swooping Molly (I think!)
An Englishman Abroad
Duncan & Brady. Another old song, published in 1929 andpreviously covered by Dylan and here featuring some excellent finger pickin’. A murder ballad about a cop killing in St Louis.
Buttons will be pressed. Almost definitely the wrong title.
Killing the Blues. Title may be wrong but this was absolutly brilliant.
Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard. Another song with a long history, definitely a murder ballad and one of the Child Ballads. This is about a young servent boy boy enticed into a liason with the Lady of house. Subsequently the Lord of the Manor kills the boy and his wife. Played with surprising cheer!
Wings. Again the title may be out but an old original song referencing the Icarus story. It might even be called Icarus.
Never any good with Money. What seemed to be a biographical song, very British and very touching.
Greystones …I think , a stunning instrumental whatever it was called.
Walking Blues. This was to encore, an amazing lively and authentic hammering on the Son House original. Widely covered including by Warren Zevon & the Hindu Love Gods (REM).
I guess I knew about 50% of the above. Music is great for sparking the imagination, especially when the artist does it with such commitment abd sincerity. I would recommend seeing him live. This week I’ve been listening to True Stories and he has a new album ‘Purpose & Grace’ out in September which is on my list.
It’s great to discover new artists, especially ones that have been going for 40 years!
Here’s ‘Walking Blues’ from 2008. His take last Saturday was even better.