Martin Simpson is a guitarist's guitarist. He also writes outstanding songs and delivers them in a way that is entirely his own but can send shivers down any discerning person's spine. This is the choice I made, and the words I used to introduce it, back when the Song of the Day series was young ...
Martin Simpson is not the reason I stopped learning much new on the guitar decades ago. I didn't know of him back then.
But he does represent the cause: a disarming realisation that I'd never be any good. There are so many excellent guitarists out there that the last thing the world really needs is a bunch of not-very-good ones, or worse.
One wine-fuelled evening at a friend's house on the edge of Saddleworth Moor, his guitar was produced. I asked if I could have a strum and proceeded to play such party pieces - ideally for parties without guests - as my variation of Anji, with other bits bolted on to cover my failure to learn the whole instrumental piece itself, and some blues.
"May I?" he asked in time, polite as they come. And blew me off stage. Before then rubbing it in by saying he, too, would be blown off stage by lads he grew up with, now on the dole and still living on the same council estate. As indeed would they by Martin Simpson ...
This is a great clip, combining Never Any Good, a terrific tribute to Martin's dad, honest but affectionate and deeply moving, with a hymn many will remember from school, When a Knight Won His Spurs.
I like Martin's voice well enough. But I am mesmerised by his guitar playing and am not remotely surprised that people follow him from gig to gig or spend their holidays at guitar workshops he gives in the south of France and elsewhere.
* Buy Martin Simpson's The Prodigal Son at Salut! Live's Amazon link. Once there, make the visit worthwhile and buy most of the other items mentioned in Song of the Day