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Martin Simpson
Righteousness and Humidity

Review By Steven Stone
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Martin Simpson Righteousness and Humidity

CD Number: Red House Records RHRCD 169 

 

  Some musicians make music with such unique style that after hearing them once you can identify them immediately. Martin Simpson is among this elite group. His virtuosic fingerpicking, commanding voice, and organic musical arrangements remake even the most overdone tune into something fresh and new. On Righteousness and Humidity old standards including "John Hardy, " "I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes," "The Cuckoo Bird," "Wild Bill Jones," and "Rollin and Tumblin'" are transformed into Simpson compositions.

For those unfamiliar with Martin Simpson, his musical biography begins with his first album, Golden Vanity, released in 1976. Shortly after its release he went on tour with the legendary British folk group Steeleye Span. After this tour he then joined the great singer June Tabor, whom he worked with for the next ten years. In the late 1980's Simpson recorded two solo guitar collections for Shanachie Records, Leaves of Life and When I Was on Horseback. During the 90's Simpson made the blues album Smoke and Mirrors, and in 1996 released Band of Angels, a collaboration with his wife Jessica Simpson.  In 1997 Simpson recorded the live album Live as well as his best-known release, Cool and Unusual. Since then Simpson has made Bootleg USA in 1999, and The Bramble Briar in 2001.

On Righteousness and Humidity Simpson is joined by James Singleton on acoustic bass, Rich Kemp on fretless electric bass and electric guitar, Reggie Scanlan on Fender bass, Amassa Miller on organ, and Carl Budo on drums. Simpson not only handles vocals but acoustic guitar, ukulele, lap-steel, electric guitar, and 5-string banjo. Recorded at the Noiselab in New Orleans, LA and Panda Sound in Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire, England, engineers Jimmy Gordon and Oliver Knight did a superb job of capturing all the subtle nuances of Simpson's masterful musicianship.

Buried among all the transformed traditional compositions, is an original Simpson tune titled "Love Never Dies" guaranteed to touch the heart if any guitar collector. With references to a Gibson Super 400 and "a J-200 with such a sweet neck" the song is framed around an old musician Simpson met at an Arkansas truck stop who played with Hank Thompson and Patsy Cline.  Every time I hear it, the song completely slays me.

So you think you know what great guitar playing and great music making is all about? Until you've heard Martin Simpson you don't know nuthin'.

 

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