Martin Taylor and Martin Simpson playing together tonight at The Queen’s Hall made an interesting combination of two completely different guitar playing styles and musical roots. Both Martins are old friends and have played together many times and know one another’s playing styles so well that what lesser performers may struggle with to make work, they make look easy...the opening duet of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time after Time” just showing immediately how the different styles of Martin Taylor’s jazz sounds and Martin Simpson’s more folk based sounds blend together. A rather unique take on “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” followed straight on from this. Again two different styles blending together to make something that you might not expect to work actually work
The set was a mixture of solo work and collaborative work from both men, and the solo work clearly emphasised just how different their styles are, but both sharing that common love of music.
Martin Taylor has over the years earned himself a huge international reputation as a gifted and innovative guitarist, not only from audiences but fellow musicians, and two of my favourites from this show from him were the theme to the film “Two For the Road” and a slightly improvised version of Edith Piaf’s classic love (possibly one of the greatest ever written) song “Hymne a l’Amour”. My own preference for “Hymne a l’Amour” would have been as a simpler version, but it is such a beautiful song that is capable of moving people in so many ways that I accept that Martin’s take on it was simply another face of that songs ability to move and influence people.
Martin Simpson is not just a guitarist/folk singer. but someone with a massive interest in the history of the songs and music that he performs and this was well illustrated tonight by how an English folk song “St James Hospital” travelled to the USA, became a blues standard with many different variants (and deviations from its original story) and influenced later musicians like Bob Dylan with songs like “Blind Willie McTell”. Playing both songs as a montage cleverly illustrated their common musical roots.
Also nice to hear tonight from Martin Simpson was an earlier more blues based version of “Heartbreak Hotel”. For myself, I just wish Elvis had recorded his classic cover version closer to the original version.
Despite the obvious talent on stage tonight though the audience did at times seem very reserved and somehow not fully engaging with the performers. Odd that, as both Martins were very friendly on stage. That reserve though did not stop a hall full of applause at the end and an encore.
Review by Tom King