Skydancers – new solo album available to order now

Martin Simpson is not a man to sit still for very long. Undoubtedly one of the hardest-touring musicians on the UK folk/roots circuit, he also averages a brand new studio album almost every two years. Skydancers, his 12th full length solo record for Topic since 1992, comes hot on the heels of last year’s guest-packed collaboration with the American producer/guitarist, Thomm Jutz, Nothing But Green Willow: The Songs of Mary Sands and Jane Gentry and will be released on 12th April.

Recorded by Tom Wright and Andy Bell in Simpson’s hometown of Sheffield, Skydancers collects new, Simpson-penned originals alongside 18th century broadside ballads and reverent reworkings from the songbooks of, amongst others, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Woody Guthrie, Nancy Kerr, June Tabor and Craig Johnson.

Skydancers’ title track, commissioned by TV presenter and naturalist, Chris Packham, highlights the plight of the endangered Hen Harrier – ornithology, a keen interest of Simpson’s. Elsewhere he narrates the life and times of Billy Waters, a black, peg-legged man who became famous busking in London in the nineteenth century. ‘Roger’s Cascade’ is a very personal, jaunty, 5-string banjo homage to master instrument craftsman, Roger Bucknall. Simpson is joined on Skydancers by American pedal steel maestro, Greg Leisz, Andy Cutting on diatonic accordion, Louis Campbell on acoustic and electric guitar, Liz Hanks on cello, Ben Nicholls on string bass and a bevy of accompanying singers.

Of the album and its players, Simpson shares this, “[Skydancers] is a mixture of traditional and original songs, some of my own and others by various sources, who are, as ever, diverse and transatlantic. Woody Guthrie’s classic ‘Deportee’ is so appropriate in these times of dehumanising politics. Nancy Kerr’s ‘Fragile Water’ is a song with traditional ballad roots now reflecting gender fluidity. Jackson Browne was generous enough to record my favourite pedal steel player, Greg Leisz on two tracks, who I have long wanted to work with. Liz Hanks (cello) is in huge demand as a session player and has now released her first solo album, Land which has been rightly lauded by the media. Andy Cutting and Ben Nicholls have played on so many of my albums and they are simply my favourite musicians on their chosen instruments. In addition, Louis Campbell is one of the best players I have worked with, he’s young and he’s brilliant. I love making music with these people.”

Pre-order Skydancers here

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