More than any British folk singer of his ilk (Nic Jones, Jon Tams, Kate Rusby), Martin Simpson has striven to reconnect the strands between folk music on either side of the Atlantic. He’s been able to make such connections over the course of single albums or even, as with the interplay between Kate Rusby’s harmony vocal and Simpson’s bottleneck guitar on “Never Any Good,” a single song. Connections that elsewhere might take years and numerous performers to come to light (Aoife O’Donovan and Sara Jarosz in a Colorado forest finishing the story Kate Rusby started thirteen years before with “Some Tyrant”; Bob Dylan going perhaps further than even Nic Jones into “Canadee-I-O”) are second nature to Simpson.
So here, diving headfirst into the rowdiest, most ludicrous, most intoxicated, most downtrodden folk music with Dom Flemons (erstwhile of Carolina Chocolate Drops now touring and recording incessantly as the self-anointed “American Songster”), he may be in his most natural habitat. Mainly recorded live on their Autumn tour last year, “A Selection of Ever Popular Favourites” is more an exercise in crate-digging than in anthropology and as a modern immersion in old forms, it rivals anything from Bob Dylan’s “World Gone Wrong” to R. Crumb’s “Heroes of The Blues” trading cards.
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