Martin Simpson follows up 2007’s award-winning Prodigal Son with analbumcomprised of equal parts traditional and original material, all featuring his virtuoso handling of just about any stringed instrument.
He’s accompanied on most tracks by a star-studded cast of musicians, some – like Radiohead drummer Phil Selway – not primarily known as folkies. Danny Thompson’s double bass oozes expansively around Simpson’s slide-guitar on the instrumental “Greystones”, and BJ Cole’s pedal steel guitar glints warmly in the background of the singer’s “Home Again”, written in tribute to Scunthorpe.
Accordion and hurdy-gurdy drones lend mystery and depth to traditional British fare such as “Sir Patrick Spens” and “The Wind & The Rain”, while Simpson bookends the album with a couple of 19th-century American minstrel songs given an English folk-rock makeover: Selway’s brisk drummingprovides a syncopated strut behind the singer’s banjo on a version of “Stagolee”, while the blues spiritual “Look Up, Look Down” opens the album with a delightful arrangement in which the twinkling arpeggios of his banjola are swaddled in gentle swirls of accordion and pedal steel.
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