Red House Records
P. O. Box 4044
St. Paul, MN 55104
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Sarah Umberger
Warning! Most of the people reading reviews on this site are likely to know about Martin Simpson. To those who haven't heard of him or his music, I'll just say I heard him late, too. Believe me there is a gaping hole in your library of desert island disks which you can fill with almost any disk of his and yet will want to listen to almost everyday before being marooned. You'll know it by heart by then and not feel trapped by any difficulty you might find yourself in.
Great musical ability coupled with an honest heart is invariably powerful and freeing. Simpson has awesome powers. Or call him a musician's musician, particularly important for guitar-string types of whatever technical interest, Celtic/British folk music heads, and people with classical or high-quality tastes. It is impossible to under-estimate his talent as a guitarist or as a musician in the total sense.
For those of you who want incredible and enchanting background music to listen to while you do what you do, there are disks of his which are purely instrumental. Martin Simpson Live, recorded at Holywell Music Room in Oxford, England, mixes intoxicatingly beautiful instrumentals with British folk songs like Lord Gregory, moving contemporary songs by such brilliant writers as Bob Franke (Hard Love) played brilliantly, of course, and sung in an expressive, typically British voice, a few country blues standards which underline the guitar in an area not originally associated with beautiful playing, and wonderful why-haven't-I-heard-that-before songs like the bluesy tap-along The Company You Keep, by Jessica Ruby Simpson, Martin's wife. That song alone...
I sometimes find it hard to listen to all the tracks on a disk if they alternate too rapidly between emotional extremes, or different musical categories. I don't have that experience with this collection! Simpson's invariably impeccable guitar holds it all together. His voice, when you hear it, is warm, honest, strong and expressive, if not sheerly beautiful, which I find unusual in a guitarist of his ability. Above all, you will never feel you are just listening to a guitar.
Buy anything and everything he has recorded and if you can't listen to much in the time you have, you will find yourself wondering why you have kept so much other junk and, finally, weed through what's keeping you from so much joy. While you're at it, if there is anyone deep and loving in your life, give them one of his recordings...better than a Ferrari.
Edited by David N. Pyles