Martin Simpson - Vagrant Stanzas

Master craftsman at work

Coined in the 20s by Kentucky singer Buell Kazee, “vagrant stanza” was another term for the “floating verses” that appear in certain versions of traditional songs. It’s a particularly germane title for Martin Simpson’s new work, as it reflects the singer-guitarist’s gathering-together of his wide influences in a way that’s meant to represent him in a small club concert.

Widely revered as one of the best acoustic and slide players in the folk world, Simpson has chosen from the songs and tunes floating around his head and recorded them as intimately as if he were in your front room. Geographic reference points vary from New Orleans to South Shields, with Delta Dreams and Jackie & Murphy, while he’s included songs from Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Chris Wood and the still-underrated Leon Rosselson.

Simpson’s gentle deliveries benefit from his wealth of experience and mature understanding of the work, making for a richness that imbues all the songs – never more so than on Come Down Jehovah. The immaculately played instrumental pieces are the equal of any of the chosen songs, with Come Write Me Down working as a most beautiful short coda for this fine album.  

4 stars 4 stars 4 stars 4 stars

Topic T | SCD 589

Reviewed by Kingsley Abbott
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