Simon Kempston

Vanishing Act

Self-Portrait Records

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“DIDN’T expect much to happen on a grim Belfast night/ I glanced sparingly around …” begins the opening track to this Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter’s latest album, an instant reminder of the poetry that has always run through Kempston’s lyrics. Vanishing Act reflects both this and his readiness to look beyond mere everyday subjects. How many other songwriters, for instance, would write a song (Battle Cry), inspired by the story of a pro-Russian soldier and Putin loyalist on the frontline on eastern Ukraine?

Backed by Bob Miller (double bass), Adam Sutherland (fiddle) and William Archibald (bodhran), Kempston ranges across post-indyref Scotland (A Better Place for All) and broken relationships (If I Took You Back, My Only Regret, I Won’t Take Anything Less). The latter, addressed to an ex - "and now you've eloped with your alimony” - is played against a backdrop of rapid-fire bodhran and superb finger-picked acoustic guitar. The closing track, You Never Needed Me, is especially cutting. As is the case with all of Kempston’s output, the album is lyrically complex but repays repeated listenings. He has a dedicated following in Germany and elsewhere on the Continent; a larger following in Scotland is surely his due.

Russell Leadbetter