Martin Simpson is the complete natural musician, but his virtuosity on the guitar has often tended to unfairly overshadow his vocal and interpretive powers. His new album PRODIGAL SON demonstrates his further growth as a player, singer and composer, with an eclectic mix of British and American traditional and composed songs as well as some stunning compositions of his own. He has also brought in musicians of superb calibre to enhance the recording. Kate Rusby and Kellie While add backing vocals, there is Danny Thompson on bass and Andy Cutting on accordion and the great Jackson Browne adds vocals to Martin's masterful take on the Randy Newman classic, "Louisiana 1927", a tribute to New Orleans where he lived for several years. Other highpoints are his own compositions "Never Any Good" which he wrote for his father and the instrumental piece "Mother Love" written for his daughter Molly. Housed in a striking digipack, with outstanding photography by David Angel, the complete package is Martin's best to date.
Prodigal Son is the latest album from British folk singer-songwriter Martin Simpson, a man whose musical career has spanned four decades and shows no sign of slowing down. A master of the guitar and dedicated folk-magpie, this album brings together what Simpson does best, blending as it does interpretations of traditional songs from Europe and America with his own compositions, all delivered in glorious, silky, finger-style acoustic guitar. This is not to say that the acoustic is the only string to his bow; through the album Simpson shows his virtuosity with the electric, the lap-slide and even some good ol' huck-a-cluck banjo work on the American folk standard "Good Morning Mr. Railroad Man".
Simpson's vocal delivery often gets overlooked in the rush to praise his guitar playing and can be deceptively simple. This is because it fits its subject matter so well that it blends into the edifice perfectly; a relaxed and gentle timbre which nonetheless carries with it whatever freight of emotion he wishes it to in an effortless way.
Also, while this is technically a solo album, musical and vocal support is very much in evidence. The supremely talented Barry Phillips adds his cello playing, Andy Cutting his melodaeon and Alistair Anderson his concertina (the wonderful La Rivolte) and Northumbrian pipes. Vocal guests include the stellar Jackson Browne, Kellie While and Kate Rusby. The absolute highlight and centerpiece of this album though is a song Simpson wrote about his father, "Never Any Good".
This is a classic folk album with a good injection of Americana and originality; it is composed and graceful while still holding a powerful emotional charge and is a good indication that Simpson is a man in the prime of his creative life. --Harry Holgate
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