Album Review

Martin Simpson - Righteousness And Humidity

Martin Simpson - Righteousness And Humidity

One of the world's most formidable and original fingerstyle guitarists, Brit-born, New Orleans-based Martin Simpson turns his attention to the American south, land of constant musical miscegenation and imaginative license, and turns in the most urgent, bluesy recording of his thirty-year career. On solo banjo and guitar, or with tenacious, gritty band support, Simpson seems to measure himself and his voice -- a wiry, stinging vehicle -- against sturdy classics such as "John Hardy", "Pay Day" and "Rollin' And Tumblin'". Simpson's take on "Coo Coo Bird" -- played on electric guitar and made ever more urgent by a second electric, bass and drums -- is a seemingly impossible electrification that is somehow all the more traditional for being radical, and rocking. Simpson interprets in the strongest sense of the word, but he knows whereof he reinvents. Along with "Coo Coo", the standouts on Righteousness And Humility are two original narratives: "Easy Money", a John Hurt-esque celebration of a weed-loving New Orleans musician; and "Love Never Dies", a flowing, conversational lyric in which encounters at roadside restaurant affirm a singular truth: "Frost follows clear skies in the flatlands I come from/But in this Arkansas truck stop, love never dies."