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Saturday, 20th April 2019
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Martin Simpson - Trials and Tribulations

martin simpson trails and tribulationsAfter a three year recording gap, September sees the release of Trails and Tribulations, Martin Simpson’s 20th studio album.  Can Scunthorpe’s finest take us to new places?

Of course, The Simpson is best known for his guitar, a fearsome combination of technique,  complexity and immense tone that inspires and terrifies other students of that instrument in equal measure.    Think of Broke Down Engine, Boots of Spanish Leather or Duncan and Brady.   After Simpsonisation your average performer may think twice about adding them to the repertoire.   You can’t compete with that many notes.

But the offering here is a more rounded display of the man’s abilities.  The voice sounds more mellow and there’s plenty of variation in tone and choice of material.  It’s a serious recording, one that takes time to digest.  It’s likely there will be a wide variation amongst listeners when it comes to picking a favourite track, which is usually a sign that nothing’s amiss.

The highlight to this listener is Thomas Drew.  Most will be familiar with the song John Hardy and perhaps the historical figure on which it is based.   Thomas Drew, is written from the perspective of Hardy’s victim, as his murderer hangs for the crime.  It’s a wonderful composition.

Before that there’s a sparse, banjo led rendition of Emily Portman’s Bones and Feathers that has a good deal more tension than the original and greater variation in the melody. 

In the final straight he moves into band mode with a rousing version of Rufford Park Poachers before tackling Reynardine as a parting shot.  It may be that Fairport’s version will always be regarded as definitive, at least in modern times, but the one here is worthy of being mentioned in the same breath.   Will any other solo performer give it a bash after this?  Probably not.  Damn you Simpson.

Trails and Tribulations is released on September 1st 2017 on Topic records.  Watch this site for a chance to win a copy of the album.

- Les Pilling


Martin Simpson

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