Simon Kempston

The Last Car

Self-Portrait Records

EDINBURGH-based Simon Kempston has been flying under most people's radar for too long now, which is a pity, as he has released a series of thought-provoking albums that showcase his fluid finger-picked guitar technique. His latest sees him tackling subjects that many other singer-songwriters would shy away from. How many of them would consider penning a song, as Kempston does here, about Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47, or about the 'Tartan terrorists' of old?

Other songs are almost like self-contained short stories, such as The Consequences Of A Kiss, and Callum, the melancholy tale of a man ("15 stone of Highland brute") who never quite found love. The title track looks at the fate of a man thrown on life's scrapheap after the closure of the Linwood car plant in 1981, and contains the quietly bitter line, "Thatcher, I despise you/ as only someone with decency can".

Adam Sutherland contributes some atmospheric violin throughout, and double-bassist Bob Miller also guests. A highlight is Nothing More, Nothing Less, in which the lyrics are set against a gorgeous, rolling, finger-picked background and Sutherland's keening violin. The album reminds you, here and there, of one of the man's influences, Bert Jansch, but in terms of lyrical depth and ambition, it could only be Kempston.

Russell Leadbetter