As dab hands go at brooding with a banjo on an album cover, Martin Simpson is your dabbest. On his first album in four years (his 35th or so, if you’re scanning his long, lush career), travel and nature are his subjects, flexing like sinews through his chosen songs. Our guide is a warm and comforting soul, catching a boat with us to England on Jackson C Frank’s Blues Run the Game, stripping away the unease from a journey through town on Emily Portman’s Bones and Feathers, charming us with old ballads such as Rufford Park Poachers, and luring us up mountains with the sly, bold Reynardine. Simpson’s playing, as ever, is technically stunning, intricate and exquisite, but it also lulls the listener with its loveliness, rather than directing ears to the meat and muscle of his stories. One for those who like their journeys cosseted and steady, rather than rough-and-ready.
Martin Simpson: Trails and Tribulations review – slick banjo veteran on a musical travelogue
Jude Rogers is a journalist, interviewer, arts critic and broadcaster.