Martin Simpson,
The Bramble Briar
(Topic, 2001)

When you listen to The Bramble Briar, it's easy to figure out why Martin Simpson is one of folk music's most respected guitarists. Born in England, and now living in the United States, Simpson began his professional music career in the mid-1970s when he was 15 years old. He has worked with many of Britain's best folk musicians, including June Tabor, Richard Thompson and Martin Carthy. The Bramble Briar is a wonderful look at traditional British folk music.

The CD opens with "Polly on the Shore," which contains the familiar theme of going off to sea and thinking about loved ones at home. "The Lover's Ghost" is an instrumental that features some great guitar playing by Simpson and Martin Carthy, who plays guitar on several tracks. "Fair Annie" is a song about love and class distinction. "Dives and Lazarus" deals with death and biblical allusions. Its tune is one of the many uses of the Irish tune "Star of the County Down."

One of the CD's best songs, "Betsy the Serving Maid," is another song that deals with love, death and class distinction. The title track, "The Bramble Briar," is another unflattering look at class distinction. Its title is also known as the more familiar "Burton Town." Simpson is joined by his wife, Jessica Radcliffe, who provides some nice vocal harmonies on "Sammy's Bar," a sailor's love story. "Leaves of Life" is a beautiful gypsy Easter carol. The CD closes with a recent instrumental composition "Air For Maurice Ogg."

If you enjoy traditional British folk music, this CD is a great choice. Acoustic guitar playing doesn't get much better than Martin Simpson.

[ by Dave Townsend ]
Rambles: 10 August 2002

Buy it from