I awoke this morning with a song in my head.
The song was “Boots of Spanish Leather” by Bob Dylan.
But Bob wasn’t singing it.
Martin Simpson was.
Martin Simpson is the exceedingly accomplished British Folk musician rightfully revered as one of the best acoustic guitarists on the planet.
I first heard Martin Simpson sing and play “Boots of Spanish Leather” in the late 1990s.
Back then, Martin would travel each December to southeastern New Hampshire to join local fingerpicking phenom Ed Gerhard for a Christmas Guitar Concert held in the sanctuary of a local church.
My daughter and I attended many of these truly magical evenings and the instrumentals and songs – often including “Boots of Spanish Leather” – that Martin presented ranked high among our favorites year after year.
Martin released a live recording of his rendition of “Boots of Spanish Leather” in 1999 on his Bootleg USA album. He contributed a studio recording to the 2001 Red House Records compilation A Nod To Bob: An Artists Tribute to Bob Dylan on His Sixtieth Birthday.
That’s the performance I know and love and was the music that started my day.
I heartily recommend that you take a few minutes and listen to this.
Martin was accompanied on that track by bass guitarist Doug Robinson and cellist Barry Phillips.
In the liner notes to the A Nod To Bob CD, Martin writes: “I think that no one took me further than Dylan, or showed me more possibilities. I’m still exploring the roads and sidewalks, dare I say it following the signs. Some of those songs feel like mine now. Thank you, we all owe you so much.”
I think it is safe to say that Martin Simpson definitely succeeded in making “Boots of Spanish Leather” his own.
Martin Simpson was born on May 5, 1953 in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, England. He got his first guitar at age twelve, gave his first paid performance at fourteen and recorded his first solo album – “Golden Vanity” – in 1976 at the age of twenty-two. His 21st solo album – “Rooted” – was released in 2019.
The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards honored Martin as the Instrumentalist of the Year in 2002, Musician of the Year in 2004 and having the Best Album – “Prodigal Son” – in 2008.
“Boots of Spanish Leather” originally appeared on Bob Dylan’s third album, The Times They Are A-Changin’, in 1964.
Such a sweet heartfelt rendition, and so beautifully played. Thanks for sharing! 💞🤗
Thanks for this.
Back in the early ’90s or so I was becoming aware of Martin Simpson, probably through guitar mags. While visiting Ithaca, NY one weekend I picked up a cassette copy of When I Was on Horseback in a shop and put it on in the car between stops. I then made a visit to a guitar shop and tried out a locally produced guitar called the Oneida that I had seen advertised in Acoustic Guitar. I re-tuned it to DADGAD and sat playing around on it for a minutes when out from the back room steps… Martin Simpson! …who proceeds to give me a private demonstration on the guitar. I had no idea that this Englishman was currently living in Ithaca and, apparently, worked part-time in this shop! That of course was why his album was prominently displayed in town. The cassette even came with the CD booklet which contained tabs for the songs and from which I subsequently learned valuable skills on my six-string.