Review: Martin Simpson, Glee Club, by Peter Palmer
Lincolnshire bred folk musician Martin Simpson has had some fine guests on his recent albums. But when he gave two substantial sets at Castle Wharf, his personal resources were so much more than adequate.
One song reflected his teenage addiction to songwriter hero Leonard Cohen. Another recalled the model of Bob Dylan, whose Blind Willie McTell provided an undoubted highlight.
As to his own material, family plays a big part in Simpson's life. An instrumental captured daughter Molly on a swing, Never Any Good his unambitious father in words telling and poignant.
And Simpson's mentors include father-in-law Roy Bailey, from whom he learnt Leon Rosselson's Palaces Of Gold, about a village coalmining disaster. For the lovely Waly, Waly, about a north country "lady of high renown", he went back to June Tabor's debut album.
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His love of the blues was evident from the beginning. Extracts from the recent Purpose and Grace album yielded vintage Americana. The saga of Bold General Wolfe and the imagery of a modern Bruce Springsteen piece made telling history lessons.
Riding on artistic autopilot ("stream of consciousness"), rather than the satnav of a formal setlist, he apologised profusely for forgetting the lyrics of his Englishman Abroad.
Everything was ennobled by fascinating guitar work and eloquent vocals. And just when it seemed the Simpson banjo would never leave its case, he produced it for the Martinmas border ballad The Wife of Usher's Well.