Martin Simpson

Sad or High Kicking

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Empty that CD tray; clear your plate for some more prime cuts from the Scunthorpe, England steeler. Just two years after the ground-breaking GRINNING IN YOUR FACE, and in between tours accompanying June Tabor, Martin Simpson found himself with music in his fingers and time on his hands, and he spent it wisely.

His guitar tone is as clean and fresh as ever--in "Shawnee Town" it's like the strings are being pulled by grappling hooks rather than mere fingernails--and there's a fresh approach to almost every track. And while most of the material is from his adopted country (USA), there's a clear reminder of his roots; Anne Lister's "Icarus" is the centerpiece of the album, the vocal lines climbing like thermals over some unmistakable rolling riffs. He winds it up with a barnstorming full band version of "The Lakes of Pontchartrain" that would shake the cobwebs from any Louisiana outhouse. Through it all, Simpson doesn't once resort to studio tricks--it all goes to show why back in Scunthorpe they still talk about the time that a 14-year-old kid walked onto the stage, picked up his guitar and started to play.

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