Review Date May 24, 2012
Review By John Roffey
Location The Centre Stage, Bournemouth
A prolific songwriter, performer and recording artist since 1976, award-winning Martin Simpson is still churning out quality albums and putting himself through punishing tour schedules. He has worked with the great and the good in the folk world, and his collaborations with June Tabor are now legendary. What a treat therefore it was to see him make a welcomed return to captivate a near full house at the Centre Stage with his wit, great songs and brilliant guitar and banjo work. After a terrific bottle-neck slide intro, classics were the order of the day with “In The Pines,” a song he learned from the recordings of Leadbelly, and “Yip’ Harburg’s “Brother Can You Spare A Dime.” The sad tale of “Sir Patrick Spens” was followed by Leonard Cohen’s “The Stranger Song,” and another Leadbelly classic, “Been On The Job Too Long.” “The Green Linnet,” a song about Napoleon; “Banjo Bill,” a tribute to the late, great Banjo Bill Cornett, and “Diamond Joe” led to Martin closing out the first set with a medley of “Three Day Millionaire” and the instrumental “Don’t Put Your Banjo In Tthe Shed Mr. Waterson”-both tributes to the much lamented doyen of the folk scene, Mike Waterson. Martin was quickly back to work with “Palaces Of Gold” and the wonderful “Killing The Blues;” an already popular number given special treatment by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant on their brilliant album, RAISING SAND. A Scots ballad, “Lord Jamie Douglas” and the ever popular “Never Any Good” led nicely into another instrumental, “Come Write Me Down,” before Martin reminisced over his time in New Orleans with “An Englishman Abroad,” and “Little Lisa Jane”-a macabre story of NO gang warfare which had the audience singing along on the chorus. Sadly and all too quickly, things were drawing to a close, but Martin certainly knows how to handle a finale-a gorgeous rendition of the country classic, “Love Never Dies” and the inevitable encore, with the traditional gospel ballad, “When I Lay My Burden Down;” a staple played at New Orleans jazz funerals. With a finely-honed stage presence, Martin soon warmed to an enthusiastic audience and clearly enjoyed his visit to the South Coast. With any luck, he will be able to fit in another trip to these parts before too long. The evening got underway with a short set from resident soundman, Andy Stone who reminded us all that his musical talents more than match his exceptional technical skills.
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