An hour in the company of an adept of their instrument & charming songwriter.
Full Disclosure: Simon and I went to school together, and have known each other off an on a very long time. That said, if he was rubbish, I would tell you.
For more than a decade, Simon Kempston has toured the world, finding a warm welcome in habitations large and small thanks to the guitar case in his hand. Like yours truly, Simon grew up in Dundee, before finding a home in Edinburgh, where he lives (in between being here, there, and everywhere.) Thus his gig at the Royal Oak, is something of a home game, and we all know that folks are hard to beat on their home turf. So it’s no surprise that Simon is on very fine form, his fingers flying across the strings dextrously, a heartfelt song ever on his lips.
He really is a very fine musician, filling The Wee Folk Club in the basement of the Royal Oak with a rich, deceptively sophisticated sound. Deceptively because the listener isn’t drawn into admiring the complexity of his work, but rather luxuriates in the multi-tonal sound.
His set for this Edinburgh gig is drawn from later work, a mixture of love song, social commentary, odes to friends, and even an instrumental. A high baritone, Simon has retained his distinctive vocal style for all the years I’ve been listening to him (and singing with him back in school choirs): it’s a clear voice, very suited to his narrative rich lyrics. You never need to ask Simon what he’s feeling whilst he’s crooning, his music does all that work for him in spades.
He’s a cheerful master of ceremonies for his own show as well, not a dour advocate for all things folk. Yes, he draws on the folk tradition, but this is certainly contemporary, and readily accessible music. The songs themselves are highly relatable, sometimes comic, but tending to the melancholy, or at least the contemplative. Troubadours have rarely been known for their sunny creations.
You’d be advised to fly along and see him today if you can, as he’ll be in international demand again the moment the Fringe sets him free. An hour in the company of a charming songwriter & adept of their instrument would make a fine way to end your own Fringe.