Traditional and contemporary folk from the British Isles

purpose + grace

Guitar virtuoso Martin Simpson will release his new album on Monday September 5th.
purpose + grace

takes its very apposite title from the great American songwriter Yip Harburg (composer of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’, ‘Brother Can You Spare A Dime’ and ‘Only A Paper Moon’)
“I am one of the last of a small tribe of troubadours who still believe that life is a beautiful and exciting journey with a purpose and grace well worth singing about.”

This album marks a bold and confident step for Simpson. Building upon the strengths of Prodigal Son and True Stories, like a movie producer, he conceived the whole project over a number of months and then invited some of his favourite musicians to bring their stellar talents to the recording sessions. Jon Boden, B J Cole, Dick Gaughan, Fay Hield, Will Pound, June Tabor and Richard Thompson join Martin’s regular band – Andy Cutting, Andy Seward and Keith Angel – on an exemplary series of performances. The material shifts from Anglo-American ballads, Scots and English traditional songs to new compositions from Bruce Springsteen, Richard Thompson, the aforementioned Yip Harburg and Martin Simpson.

Central to the whole project is a new Simpson composition based upon the words of Banjo Bill Cornett of Hindman, Kentucky, from a 1958 home recording. Cornett makes a heartfelt exposition of the beauty and purpose of traditional music-making: “This is Banjo Bill Cornett, I’m at home today, thirteenth day of February 1958. Here by myself, nobody but me around and that’s when I usually play the banjo and sing and whatever. My children grew up, and they fell for this rock’n’roll music – honky tonk music whatever you might call it. I don’t like that and I catch them all gone, my wife gone and then I carry on to suit my own self and I’m a making this record to give somebody – I don’t know who I’ll give this recording to, I want to give it to someone who will keep it and if there’s any people after I’m gone who’d like to hear my carrying on as far as my singing and banjo playing is concerned, I’d like them to keep it.”

purpose + grace

track list:
1     The Sheffield Apprentice
2     Bold General Wolfe
3     Brothers Under The Bridge
4     Little Liza Jane
5     Brother Can You Spare A Dime
6     Jamie Foyers
7     In The Pines
8     Strange Affair
9     Banjo Bill
10    Barbry Allen
11    Don’t Put Your Banjo In The Shed Mr Waterson
12    Bad Girl’s Lament
13    Lakes Of Ponchartrain

Martin’s album is reviewed by Robin Denselow, Sam Lee and Julian May on the new weekly ProperMusic.Com Podcast. The podcast may be downloaded free :
or listened to:

Little Liza Jane : MARTIN SIMPSON by Topic Records

Brothers Under The Bridge : MARTIN SIMPSON by Topic Records

with thanks to Ian Anderson at fRoots

“Simpson can seemingly do no wrong at the moment, his Indian summer turning into an extended heatwave on yet another brave and sometimes daring album… (purpose + grace) is an album of infinite range and moods and yet again must rank up there among his very best.” Colin Irwin, fRoots

Sadly, the great Mike Waterson, one of the finest singers of the folk revival died on June 22nd. Martin had composed a tune in honour of Mike and his banjo – “Sometime in the early 1970s I visited Hull to see the Watersons at their home, and I was greatly taken by an old fretless banjo they had – I coveted it a great deal actually! Almost 35 years later I did a gig with Mike, Martin Carthy and Chris Parkinson at Skipton Cattle Market. I asked Mike about the banjo, which he informed me was languishing in his shed. He told me I could have it if I got it fixed up. My friend Barry Murphy has painstakingly restored it to playing condition, straightening the warped neck, making new friction pegs and replacing the old split head. The first time I played it I started to write the tune for Mike – Don’t Put Your Banjo In The Shed Mr Waterson.”

For details of Martin Simpson’s forthcoming gigs please visit:

“I am a big fan of Martin’s playing. Perhaps the highest praise I could give is to say that he never stops getting better!” Richard Thompson

Available now from:

Ragged kingdom

In 1990 June Tabor and Oysterband collaborated on the classic Freedom And Rain album – frequently regarded as one of the Top 5 Folk albums of all time.
Twenty one years later they’ve reconvened, to record the magnificent Ragged Kingdom. The album will be released on Monday 19th September.

Invited to reunite for fRoots’ 30th birthday party at the Roundhouse they all came off-stage determined to make a belated follow-up to their earlier collaboration.

”The spark” says Oysterband’s Ian Telfer “is we really feel we do something together which is different from what we do as separate acts. There is something in the combination of June’s exquisite dark voice with the supple energy of Oysterband that greatly pleases us. June comes to recording fantastically well prepared: every nuance of meaning and feeling considered in advance and plotted in her mind. Then she stands in the studio and delivers one perfect take, like an act of Chinese calligraphy. Or maybe Chinese cooking: the work is all in the preparation.”

Ragged Kingdom
Topic TSCD585

track list:

1     Bonny Bunch Of Roses
2     That Was My Veil
3     Son David
4     Love Will Tear Us Apart
5     (When I Was No But) Sweet Sixteen
6     Judas (Was A Red-Headed Man)
7     If My Love Loves Me
8     The Hills Of Shiloh
9     Fountains Flowing
10    The Leaves Of Life
11    Seven Curses
12    The Dark End Of The Street

Bonny Bunch Of Roses : JUNE TABOR & OYSTERBAND by Topic Records

That Was My Veil : JUNE TABOR & OYSTERBAND by Topic Records

“A marriage made in heaven.” Rolling Stone

“Glorious.” ★★★★★ Mojo

“This is one reunion that works so magnificently it even overshadows the magical memories of their previous collaboration 21 years ago.” Colin Irwin, fRoots

with thanks to Ian Anderson at fRoots

“Striking gold by fusing the contemporary and traditional is at the heart of the folk process. Ragged Kingdom raises the alchemy of that process to the highest level.” Tim Cumming / The Independent

Further information can be found at:

Available now from:


16th January 1941 – 22nd June 2011