How We Once Were
Three years have passed since I praised the "delicately beautiful melodies, strikingly politicised lyrics" of Simon Kempston's debut album, Carefree Prisoner, on these very pages. Since then, the guitarist and singer from Dundee has honed the chamber-string arrangements of his folk songs on his pared-back second album, Impasse, but now looks outwards to other styles for its follow-up. The first deep twang of Marty Camino's double bass on the opening track, Careless Interventionist, sets the tone: there's a jazzier, liberated vibe here that pushes the sound closer to Richard Thompson than Nick Drake. Kempston's precisely picked guitar occasionally reaches for a classical phrase or, as on Black Dawn, tumbles down a blues riff, while Adam Nash's fiddle drifts away from its Celtic roots to play around on other corners of the world music map. Songs such as Estranged and Roland are as lovely as anything Kempston has ever written, and it's clear that, year on year, he's building himself quite a repertoire. There's a real sense of craft here, a feeling that the detail in the arrangements matters as much as the songwriting itself.