Martin Simpson ‘Trials and Tribulations’

This brooding and intimate album feels old beyond its years and is sure to be butter to the ears of British folk fans
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Prolific British folk legend Martin Simpson has returned with his first album in four years. Having established himself as one of the hardest working men in the industry through his illustrious career, this heartfelt collection of charming ballads and stories showcase his masterful ability to create narrative and music that is easy to listen to.

The album is characterized by its use of natural imagery, Simpson recollects tales of nature and travel with his warm and humble tones, acting as a guide while exploring the entwining relationship of Celtic folk ballads and the British landscape. His earthy voice is husk yet soothing throughout, with ballads such as Rufford Park Poachers, and Emily Portman’s Bones and Feathers.

Opening the album, Blues Run the Game is a soothing and intimate start and sets the tone for what’s ahead nicely. It seems to depict the difficulty of a wandering musician, followed by the blues. The brooding imagery paired with Simpsons warming voice and carefully played banjo, results in a track that feels confident, carefully thought-through, evoking wisdom.

The album is made up of traditional songs, poems, and contemporary songs by other musicians. Simpson adds a few of his own too which he, ‘had to write because nobody else knew what I wanted to say.’ He has said, I travel, I learn songs, I write and try to get better at the skills required for me to do my job. I look at the world as I pass by, on the road, out of the train window, or as I stop and pay close attention to the square foot under my nose. There is so much to see and to hear and to inspire and to try and understand.’

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This reflective style can be heard in tracks such as, ‘Maps’ and ‘Ridgeway’, which are the slightly darker yet observant tracks in the collection. The first song is made up simply of Simpson and his guitar, as he splices the tale of a travelling musician with autobiographical and natural imagery. The second is less pessimistic, with a diatonic accordion and depicts the land talking and put upon its listener.

This brooding and intimate album feels old beyond its years and is sure to be butter to the ears of British folk fans. It’s concise, careful and oozes wisdom. Simpson masterfully blends imagery and sound to create something charming and mystical.

The full track listing for the album is…

  1. Blues Run The Game
  2. Bones & Feathers
  3. Thomas Drew
  4. East Kentucky
  5. Katherine Of Aragon Interlude
  6. A Ballad For Katherine Of Aragon
  7. Maps
  8. St. James Hospital
  9. Jasper’s/Dancing Shoes
  10. Ridgeway
  11. Rufford Park Poachers
  12. Reynardine Interlude
  13. Reynardine