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A Closer Walk With Thee

Martin Simpson

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Album Review

Martin Simpson is simply one of the most talented folk-rooted acoustic guitar players in the world, and he has plenty of opportunities to demonstrate his sensitive musicianship on A Closer Walk With Thee, a collection of traditional gospel tunes. On many of the tracks, Simpson has overdubbed baritone guitars, mandolas, and mandolins over his stunningly beautiful acoustic arrangements. Additionally, he has enlisted other musicians to supply, at times, trumpet, flugelhorn, harmonica, strings, and banjo. All of this instrumentation is used to great effect on such tracks as "Palms of Victory," where the simple yet moving melody is traded off among the different instruments in an extremely effective fashion. Simpson is an excellent slide player as well, and his sweet touch is demonstrated on "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down" and elsewhere. It should be said that Simpson and company do not just play the tunes straight, but rather use some creative arranging to maximize the impact of each of the songs, which are fairly simple in their own right. One questionable call is Joe Weed's dense string arrangements, which may strike some listeners, especially those who tend to be purists, as overkill. Idiomatic or not, they are dramatic and stirring, and considering that Simpson's goal is not to record these tunes exactly like someone might have done it in the '20s, but to bring out the timeless character of these melodies and sonorities in new ways, they work marvelously. This is a very impressive effort from Martin Simpson and is well-worth the attention of anyone who loves American folk music.

Biography

Born: 05 May 1953 in Scunthorpe, England

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Martin Simpson is one of the most visible examples of the relationship between the Celtic folk of the United Kingdom and American musics such as country and the blues, which branched away from their British sources as American immigrants became distant from their past countrymen. Simpson's life charts a similar journey — one of the most technically gifted guitarists alive in the 2000s, he was born in South Humberside, England, but moved to the United States in the late '80s (after recording...
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