Martin Simpson at Truck 2008

July 2008

Martin Simpson treats us to an etymology lesson as he's tuning up. He explains that "bucolic" literally means "pertaining to cows" and "crepuscular" comes originally from the Latin for "dark" or "obscure".

But, as he points out, both words sound like nasty complaints. So it's fitting that his first song, murder ballad Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard, is bucolic, crepuscular and thoroughly horrible.

Thankfully things lighten up after that. The rest of the set is a joy to hear and watch. Simpson's guitar-playing skill has to be experienced live to be believed; his dextrous fingers turn the one-man acoustic set-up into something richer, almost as if the guitar was at times a second human presence.

The blues and rock numbers draw cheers and whistles of appreciation, but the highlight of the set is a note-perfect, emotional rendering of Never Any Good, the song that won him one of several prizes at the BBC Folk Awards this year.

Martin Simpson is that rare creature: a technically gifted musician with the charisma to make even his soundchecks entertaining.