Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 5 May '53, Scunthorpe) Perhaps the finest acoustic guitarist to emerge from the British folk scene. Began with floor spots (unpaid appearances in folk clubs), his early reputation as a young lion putting him on the well-trodden path to the Trailer label; first album Golden Vanity '76 incl. trad. fare such as 'Pretty Polly' and Dylan's 'Love Minus Zero/No Limit'. He opened for Steeleye Span '76, and began working with June Tabor, accompanying her on A Cut Above '80 on Topic, then on Abyssinians and Aqaba and a concert programme of American Civil War songs and readings. His own Special Agent '81 on Waterfront was representative; Grinning In Your Face '83 on Topic (title derived from bluesman Son House) was stronger, followed by Sad Or High Kicking '85; Nobody's Fault But Mine on Dambuster '86 (showcased guitar skills, from bottleneck on 'Yo-Yo Blues', 'Nobody's Fault But Mine' and 'Hard Times Killing Floor' to shadings on Irish airs and jigs). True Dare Or Promise on Topic '87 was credited to Martin and Jessica Simpson (b 18 Feb '52, LA), a brave but flawed attempt to delve into other musical territories: 'Man Smart, Woman Smarter' (something of a feminist anthem) stood out but other tracks hold up less well. Contributed to anthology Music Of Ireland on Shanachie alongside Duck Baker, Davey Graham, Stefan Grossman and John Renbourn; Simpson's tracks were 'The Dark Plaintive Youth', 'The Seas Are Deep' and 'Fanny Powers'. Worked with Jessica, Eric Aceto, Harry Aceto and Michael Wellin in Snake Eyes; also in short-lived Metamora (based in Bloomington IN) with accordionist Willie Schwartz (nicknamed Willie the Squeeze and a former Tom Waits sideman). Moved to the USA '87, first US album Leaves Of Life on Shanachie that year incl. Eric Aceto on guitar and mandolin; When I Was On Horseback released same year. A Closer Walk With Thee (Fledg'ling Records) and Red Roses (Rhiannon) both '94 (latter credited to Martin and Jessica) advanced the Simpson cause. He worked on three video tuition volumes for Homespun in Woodstock NY mid-'90s: Arrangements In Alternative Tunings, Creating Your Own Arrangements and Developing Style And Repertoire, befitting Guitar Player mag's judgement of him: 'His performances elicit powerful emotions and subtle, understated beauty.' Opened for the Steve Miller Band on tour '95; collaborated with Chinese pi'pa player Wu Man April '95 on Music For The Motherless Child and in Sep. with David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, both for Water Lily Acoustics. Live '96 on Beautiful Jo Records was recorded in concert at the Holywell Music Room in Oxford '94, incl. 'Dreamtime' (Simpson's tribute to the Australian Aboriginal elder Nipper Kapirigi), 'Forgotten The Blues', 'Lilith' (a tract taking as its starting point the demonization of Adam's first wife pre-Eve, who in Hebrew folklore fled Adam transforming into a demon), 'Hard Love' and 'Will This House Be Blessed'/'First Cut Is The Deepest' captured him at his magisterial best. Cool And Unusual '97 on Red House presented 15 astonishing instrumentals with a small supporting cast. Recording for so many labels left a confusing trail, but also his delight in music undiminished and his reputation growing. SIMPSON, Red (b Joseph Simpson, 6 March '34, Higley AZ) Country singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist long associated with truck-driving songs. Raised in Bakersfield CA; played alongside brother and father in country band '49-51; served in US Navy on USS Repose during Korean War and formed Repose Ramblers. Following demob worked local California clubs alongside Buck Owens, Tommy Collins, Merle Haggard etc. Co-wrote hits with Owens leading to contract with Capitol Records '65; 'Roll Truck Roll' first country hit '66; 'The Highway Patrol' revived by Junior Brown '95 to become cult hit and started revival of truck-driving genre. Other hits incl. 'I'm A Truck', 'Country-Western Truck Drivin' Singer', etc. Also wrote hits for Haggard and guested on Junior Brown's Semi-Crazy '96. Albums incl. Roll Truck Roll '66, The Man Behind The Badge '66, Truck Drivin' Fool '67, Red Simpson Sings A Bakersfield Dozen '67, I'm A Truck '71, Trucker's Christmas '73 all on Capitol.