Martin Simpson

Kind Letters

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For several decades, Martin Simpson has been a contender for the Finest Fingerstyle Folk Guitarist in the World Award. But on Kind Letters he puts himself in the running for Finest Arranger as well, with several subtly adventurous and completely wonderful settings including "The Cruel Brother" (check out the gorgeous string writing and the quiet but wild electric guitar behind his acoustic guitar and voice) and "Here's Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy." Also noteworthy are a spare and lovely guitar-and-accordion arrangement of Simpson's own "Bareback to Bullhassocks" and his fine clawhammer banjo playing on "House Carpenter." Simpson's ability to sing freely around the rhythm while playing with a solid, square beat is nothing short of amazing, and as a singer he does a very good job of making the most of his somewhat limited instrument. The album's finest moment comes right in the middle, on a sad and beautiful arrangement of one of the great British death songs (of which there are so many), "Adieu, Adieu." This is another in a long line of exceptionally fine albums from one of British folk's brightest stars.

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