Martin Simpson - Cool & Unusual

Cool & Unusual

Martin Simpson

RHR CD 110

Red House Records, Inc.
P.O. Box 4044,
St. Paul, MN 55104

A Review for The Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Jeff Wenning

Prior to listening to this CD, I was a Martin Simpson "virgin." Somehow, in the course of my renewed interest in folk, acoustic, and Celtic music over the last six or so years, I've remained unexposed to this talented guitarist.

COOL & UNUSUAL is an instrumental collection of traditional songs that Simpson uses to explore a variety of rhythms, tunings, and fingerpicking styles. Simpson states in the liner notes that "my entire life in music has been involved in the cross fertilization of elements of English, Scots and Irish music with African and Afro American ideas. Happily for me, that constitutes American traditional music. Also of great importance to me has been the relationship between my playing of the guitar and the 5 string banjo, which is also a crucial part of the development of music in the USA."

On COOL & UNUSUAL, Simpson takes up the acoustic, electric, resonator and D guitars, fretless banjo, and cumbus (hey, I never heard of it either, but it's supposed to be a hybrid of guitar and fretless banjo). He plays each with superior technical accuracy. His accompanying musicians are fantastic as well. My only problem with this CD is that it left me feeling unfulfilled.

I recall the days when I discovered John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Sandy Bull, Ry Cooder, Doc Watson and others. The way they coaxed such emotion out of a few vibrating strings simply thrilled me. I stood in awe of their seemingly supernatural capabilities. This CD, quite simply put, didn't do it for me. There was no sympathetic vibration between it and me.

Fans of Martin Simpson will likely be quick to remind me of his past accomplishments. To them I can only say that he captured my interest enough that I'm willing to give another of his other CD's a try. I've enjoyed songs from this CD when I heard them interspersed with other songs during CD "random play" sessions, but as an "album" of songs, COOL & UNUSUAL lacks continuity.

Track List:

  • Darling Corey (Trad. arr. M. Simpson)
  • Shepherds' Delight (M. Simpson)
  • Stole and Sold from Africa (Trad. arr. M. Simpson)
  • Plains of Waterloo (Trad. arr. M. Simpson)
  • The Week Before Easter (Trad. arr. M. Simpson)
  • Medley: The Waters of Tyne/ My Bonny Lad/ Radcliffe's Fancy (Trad. arr. M. Simpson/ Trad. arr. M. Simpson/J. R. Simpson)
  • Prelude / Santa Cruz (Trad. arr. M. Simpson)
  • Rye Whiskey (Trad. arr. M. Simpson)
  • Lord Jamie Douglas (Trad. arr. M. Simpson)
  • Deep Blue Sea (Trad. arr. M. Simpson)
  • Swannanoa Tunnel (Trad. arr. M. Simpson)
  • Ramblin' Round (Trad. arr. M. Simpson)
  • Disassembly of God / Swing Low Sweet Chariot (Trad. arr. M. Simpson)
  • James Connolly (Trad. arr. M. Simpson)
  • Rose of Allandale (Trad. arr. M. Simpson)

Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz

Copyright 1999, Peterborough Folk Music Society and Jeffrey A. Wenning.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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