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Martin Simpson (b 1953) is an English guitarist.

He was born on 5 May 1953 in Scunthorpe, England. By the age of 12 he was playing guitar and banjo. The British folk singer, Access campaigner and radio presenter Mike Harding tells a story that when he was performing at a folk club in the Scunthorpe area in 1960s he was persuaded to let a "local kid" stand up and play the banjo, essentially humouring the boy, thinking he would be pretty useless. The kid then proceeded to blow the audience away with a mature and fully formed finger-picking banjo display, rather overshadowing the astonished Harding. The kid was, of course, Martin Simpson. In 1970 he dropped out of college to become a full-time professional musician, touring folk clubs. In 1976 he recorded his first solo album "Golden Vanity". In the same year he opened for Steeleye Span on their UK tour. Teaming up with June Tabor, a folk singer who didn't play an instrument, Martin toured folk clubs and appeared at festivals. They recorded three albums together, highlighting each other's complementary talents. There was a fluid jazzy feel about their approach to traditional material. In 1985 he married an American singer Jessica Radcliffe. Together they recorded "Truth Dare or Promise" (1987) and shortly afterwards relocated to America, living initially in Ithaca, New York.

Over the next ten years he became more and more adventurous, playing blues, bluegrass, cajun and even Indian-inflected music. Wu Man is a player of the Chinese lute (Pudong School of Pipa). Simpson recorded a duet with her on "Music of the Motherless Child", a blend of European and Chinese traditions. In a similar vein was "Kambara Music in Native Tongues" with David Hidalgo from "Los Lobos" and violinist Viji Krishnan, a subdued mix of Hindu and contemporary songs. "Cool and Unusual" (1997) lived up to its title. Several admired guitarists joined him on this all-instrumental album, including David Lindley. "A Closer Walk With Thee" presented Christian hymns. "Smoke and Mirrors" was such a confident display of blues, that some people thought he was American. Not until 1999 did he record several of his own compositions on "Bootleg USA". He founded a record label called "High Bohemia". Perhaps suffering from homesickness, he visited the UK in 1994, recording "Martin Simpson Live" in Oxford. In 1999 he was a session musician for an album by Welsh singer Julie Murphy. "The Bramble Briar" (2001) was a turn to basics, a collection of British traditional folk songs. 2003 saw the release of "Rightousness and Humidity", a set focusing almost exclusively on music from the Deep South, played on a variety of instruments and featuring Steeleye Span's Rick Kemp. It was a nominee for BBC folk awards album of the year in 2004. This was followed up in 2005 by "Kind Letters" in which he mines once again the rich seams of English folk music which proved so fruitful for "The Bramble Briar". In 2007 Simpson released "Prodigal Son". The 2008 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards voted it as best album. The fRoots critics poll voted it as the 7th best new album of 2007. It is a mixture of traditional songs and Simpson originals, the highlights of which possess a distinctly southern American flavor. Jackson Browne, Kate Rusby and Kellie While guest star here. In December 2007 he performed on Later With Jools Holland.

Martin has written guitar instruction books and recorded DVD guitar tutorials. His career came full circle in 2003 when he teamed up with June Tabor again. In 2004 he surprised everyone by performing at a gig in Nettlebed, Oxford, where he played banjo all evening, without touching a guitar. A readers' poll of the magazine "Acoustic Guitar" voted him as number 12 in the world in 2005. Martin is now married to Kit Bailey, the daughter of the singer Roy Bailey, with whom Martin occasionally performs. Martin and Kit now live in Sheffield and have a baby daughter, Molly. Along with Martin Taylor, Simon Mayor, Doyle Dykes, Gordon Giltrap and Julie Ellison, he writes for the magazine Acoustic.

Indexed at Wikipedia.

Chords and Tabs: Martin Simpson