The album that was cooked up over the kitchen table

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A musical partnership forged in Sheffield reaches another landmark next week.

Renowned as one of the world’s best acoustic and slide guitarists, Martin Simpson releases his latest album with more than a little help from his near neighbour Richard Hawley.

Some of the songs on Vagrant Stanzas were produced by Richard at Sheffield’s Yellow Arch Studios.

Moreover, the tone was set by their sessions swapping songs across the kitchen table at home in the High Storrs area.

The ambition was to capture the intimate atmosphere of the evenings, focusing on just one man and his guitar - or banjo - playing to a friend.

Played and sung live, most of the performances on the CD are first or second takes.

“I feel as though this is the record I’ve been working towards all my life,” says Martin.

“It’s the first time I’ve made a studio album which deliberately tries to capture the immediacy of a live performance. In fact it is the intimacy of playing to a friend which is at the heart of this album. It is not a record of repairs and corrections... this is what I do at a gig.”

The album is the latest collaboration between the two men from different musical backgrounds whose paths were to cross in Sheffield.

Folk and blues musician Martin Simpson was born in Scunthorpe and lived and worked for a time in America before settling in Sheffield where he now lives with his wife, Kim Bailey, and their daughter, Molly.

From a background in Sheffield’s more hard-edged music scene, Richard Hawley has long proclaimed his allegiance to the city.

One of his early meetings with Martin was to present him with a BBC Radio 2 folk award (one of 26 nominations in 12 years). He joked that he could have dropped it off at his house around the corner in Sheffield instead of at a ceremony in London.

More recently, Martin played on Richard’s latest album, Standing At The Sky’s Edge and he joined him on stage when the tour came to Sheffield City Hall.

Their occasional playing together at The Greystones pub included Martin’s 60th birthday celebrations last May.

Richard describes him as “the best I’ve physically been in the presence of, and I’ve been in the presence of some great players”.

The CD has been co-produced by Martin and also imported the talents of American producer Peter Denenberg, who has worked with the likes of David Bowie and Lou Reed and Richard Hawley.

As well as the standard single CD, Vagrant Stanzas (Topic Records) is also be available in a limited edition ‘deluxe’ two-CD set with 20 page booklet.

In addition to traditional material it includes songs by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Chris Wood and Leon Rosselson.

Named after a reference by a Kentucky singer and bluegrass singer, Buell Kazee, it is being released to coincide with the Cambridge Folk Festival where Martin will be appearing.