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LESTER SIMPSON "one" No Masters NMCD 16

Lester Simpson is possibly best known as one of the essential thirds of that long established firm, Coope, Boyes and Simpson. On this, his first solo CD, Lester Simpson takes the opportunity to augment his singing and songwriting with his skills on melodeon and pipes.

Although much associated with both Traditional and contemporary song, the vocal style of Lester Simpson is not what would be regarded as either "modern" or "Traditional". His strong voice is more the cosmopolitan mix of post-war popular British/American recording stars with echoes and traces of the folksong revival of the fifties and sixties. The songs he writes also have that sense of being between times. Not dated or old fashioned, just from some time earlier and now being rediscovered. Indeed these notions of rediscovery and earlier times can be found in many of his songs. The first track, "Singing the Ages Down", asks us to learn from the past or ". look to the old ways, when you're looking for the new." "Shearwaters", "Fairground Attraction", "Weekend Girl" and "The Rhyme of No Man's Land" take differing views on self-discovery while, in "Polly on the Shore", Polly at least takes some kind of direction towards a way out. The words in the songs are fine in themselves but they are also coupled to tunes, which not only match and compliment the lyric but are eminently singable as well.

Between songs there are some grand instrumental pieces featuring the melodeon and both Highland and shuttle pipes. Included in these sets are more of Lester Simpson's compositional work including, "Dozinghem", "The Land of the Long White Cloud" and "The Old Winston Churchill". Joining Lester Simpson in the light and flexible arrangements of the songs and instrumentals are Nigel Corbett on guitar, mandolin and violin, Nigel Jardine on drums and Wendy Weatherby on vocals and cello.

Singer, songwriter, piper, melodeon player, radio presenter and actor - on this CD, 'one', Lester Simpson has brought all of these talents into use, resulting in an emotive recording of finely gauged strengths and challenging depths.

Peter Fairbairn

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This album was reviewed in Issue 39 of The Living Tradition magazine.