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MARTIN SIMPSON - Home Recordings 

MARTIN SIMPSON - Home Recordings 
Topic Records TSCD609 

Another instance where the pervasive cloud of lockdown has thwarted plans yet against the odds has given rise to a silver lining of serious creative magic. Here, a planned live album has been supplanted by a disc of beautifully intimate, relaxed at-home recordings. Naturally, just Martin and assorted guitars, banjo and ukulele, with some very selective backing vocals from Max Simpson, Amy Newhouse Smith and Tom Wright (and at one point a flock of passing geese!).

Here on these Home Recordings Martin conveys the intense, joyous rediscovery of familiar material: some of which he’s recorded before, but in Martin’s case familiarity breeds not contempt but content. Curiously, perhaps, this impression may be partly down to the (seemingly) increasingly effortless nature of his playing, where he’s gleefully innovating, taking chances with tunings, tempos and techniques to transform and enhance his (and our) experience and knowledge of these songs.

The disc’s menu encompasses the customary eclectic mixture of styles and genres for which Martin is rightly acclaimed. Although it’s Martin’s instrumental mastery that’s most widely celebrated, vocal tracks are in the majority here, with peerless, insightful new takes on outright classics like John Prine’s Angel From Montgomery, Robin Williamson’s October Song and Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’, alongside Lyle Lovett (Family Reserve), the traditional Admiral Benbow and House Carpenter, blues standard Deliah, quirky original composition An Englishman Abroad and a delightful fingerpicked-banjo-led rendition of Mike Waterson’s Three Day Millionaire. All stunningly accompanied, of course. Whereas instrumental cuts include a heart-stopping slide-guitar version of Plains Of Waterloo, a delicate (Cutty) Wren Variations and Appalachian-styled uke piece Augmented Unison.

The listener feels highly privileged to share the same airspace as Martin for this magnificent set of Home Recordings.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 137 of The Living Tradition magazine