Folk

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

Trails & Tribu­la­tions Martin Simp­son Topic/Planet It’s a nigh per­fect mar­riage of per­for­mance, pro­duc­tion and song se­lec­tion, the kind of al­bum that would rep­re­sent the apoth­e­o­sis of most ca­reers. For award-win­ning mu­si­cian Martin Simp­son, Trails & Tribu­la­tions is pretty well par for the course. The gun gui­tar-play­ing/ban­jopick­ing singer has been re­spon­si­ble for a steady stream of su­perb al­bums that in­cor­po­rate both the English and Amer­i­can folk tra­di­tions since an aus­pi­cious 1976 debut, Golden Van­ity. His 20th solo al­bum in 40 years con­sti­tutes yet an­other clas­sic in a crowded back cat­a­logue that’s also stud­ded with col­lab­o­ra­tions with stel­lar mu­si­cians across the genre spec­trum. Although Simp­son has re­cruited an eight-strong crew for his first new solo work since 2013’s lauded Va­grant Stan­zas, he de­ploys his guests ju­di­ciously. There’s a char­ac­ter­is­tic lack of os­ten­ta­tion in his own play­ing, just con­sum­mate crafts­man­ship that draws on blues and jazz as well as folk, and his highly in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic in­stru­men­tal and singing voices. Simp­son starts with what might come to be re­garded as a de­fin­i­tive ren­di­tion of Jack­son C. Frank’s much­cov­ered Blues Run the Game. Emily Port­man’s poignant por­trait of a fe­male va­grant, Bones & Feath­ers, pro­vides an early re­minder of Simp­son’s prow­ess on banjo, with bass drum and other per­cus­sive ef­fects and dis­tinc­tive back­ing vo­cals from his daugh­ter, Molly. The Ir­ish lilt of Jasper’s/Danc­ing Shoes — pieces prompted by de­parted friends and fam­ily — is boosted by Nancy Kerr’s ex­em­plary fid­dle play­ing. Like three other new Simp­son orig­i­nals on the set, it dove­tails with more sparsely de­liv­ered transat­lantic tra­di­tional stan­dards such as St James Hos­pi­tal, East Ken­tucky, Ruf­ford Park Poach­ers and Rey­nar­dine.

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