Album Review: Trails & Tribulations by Martin Simpson
Very Good, Based on 2 Critics
The Observer (UK) - 80 Based on rating 4/5
The English veteran’s album tally reaches 20 with this release, and appropriately it’s one of his finest, an exquisitely played distillation of standards from both sides of the Atlantic, with a brace of originals for ballast. Well-worn favourites like Rufford Park Poachers and Blues Run the Game are presented in polished form, with Simpson’s virtuoso guitar and banjo tailored and layered by producer Andy Bell, plus classy guest accompaniments. Highlights include a cavernous version of Emily Portman’s Bones and Feathers, while Maps is a glance back at a 1950s childhood and Ridgeway evokes England’s ancient past.
As dab hands go at brooding with a banjo on an album cover, Martin Simpson is your dabbest. On his first album in four years (his 35th or so, if you’re scanning his long, lush career), travel and nature are his subjects, flexing like sinews through his chosen songs. Our guide is a warm and comforting soul, catching a boat with us to England on Jackson C Frank’s Blues Run the Game, stripping away the unease from a journey through town on Emily Portman’s Bones and Feathers, charming us with old ballads such as Rufford Park Poachers, and luring us up mountains with the sly, bold Reynardine.