There might be one good reason for buying Martin Simpson's new album
'Purpose + Grace' : his performance, together with June Tabor, of
Richard Thompson's sublime song 'Strange Affair' - but there are, in
fact, a further dozen other good reasons for doing so too. Mr Simpson
has no need to mess about with his material; giving it a contemporary
twist or tarting it up with over-decorative detail. This collection
shines like gold; its simple merits a testament to its maker's artistry.
True, there are some very special guests on board too but it feels as
though they are here as friends as much as co-conspirators. It's a joy!
Standout tracks include : the uncluttered solo rendition of 'Bold
General Wolfe', wherein one can almost smell the sea and hear the
cannons roar - a great story well-told and well-played by a master;
the rough and ready vernacular of the inimitable Scottish singer
Dick Gaughan on 'Jamie Foyers'; the wonderfully pathos-filled account
of Bruce Springsteen's 'Brothers Under The Bridge'; the evocative guitar
lamentations of 'In The Pines' and the stirling interpretation of 'Brother
Can You Spare A Dime' (Mr Gaughan again on fine form, delivering another of
the album's finest moments). The pick of the crop for me, however, comes
with Mr Simpson's intensely focussed performance of 'Barbry Allen'. One
man and his guitar and a lifetime's experience condensed in a single song.
Wholesome and magical music making really doesn't get much better than this!
Both the purpose and the grace of Mr Simpson's vision are wholly palpable.