Stevie Simpson, colloquially known as One Bloke One Mandolin, probably made the best decision of his life when he decamped to Spain before things here went totally pants. What that means for him playing in the UK again I don’t know – although he recorded this CD in Swindon – but for bringing the word “clint” into our vocabulary he’s done more than enough. Sunshine State Of Mind is his seventh studio album.
A glance at the cover will serve as an introduction to the contents. Stevie certainly is in a sunshine place but also in a mythical America. The opener, ‘The Western Saloon’, sounds like an authentic road song set somewhere in the desert. Listen carefully and you realise that he’s actually singing about a country music festival in Berlin. It was Stevie’s intention to record a back to basics mandolin album but instead he’s got together with a bunch of friends to record some of the best Americana I’m likely to hear this year. ‘Dust On My Boots’ is almost what I thought the first track was, with Stevie somewhere in Arizona, but it’s as much about the music and the musicians as the life. ‘Taking My Time’ finds him looking for a peaceful corner of the world and ‘Mountains’ is an appreciation of the sort of places where he finds one and explains why he’s there and not here.
‘Breathe’ is a return to the social issues that we’re accustomed to but Stevie is looking in as much as looking out at the world. As the Dalai Lama said, “a genuine change must come from within” and while Stevie tells us that he’s doing the best he can and isn’t afraid to fail he’s also ready to stand up for what he believes.
The mandolin drives ‘Down At The Six String Bar-B-Q’ and we’re back to playing music and drinking beer with the band. ‘Chainsaws & Banjos’ continues the theme while also celebrating good honest hard work and ‘Lakes’ explores some of the ideas set out in ‘Breathe’. ‘The Edge Of The Everglades’ starts with two brothers, fishermen both, who see their business being ruined by reduced quotas. So they turned to drug smuggling and you can guess what happened next.
‘Waves & Flames’ is a gentle love song back on the beach with the one he loves and the closing ‘Sunshine State Of Mind’ is a slab of rock’n’roll that wraps the album up and as Stevie says, “the drugs are mostly working”. Music, friends and a good place to live are all he needs.
Stevie is essentially a solo artist so the mandolin is always well up in the mix but I have to spare a few words for the band. The fiddle of Peter Van Den Bos is a major source of decoration providing the country vibe and Albert Rumengan plays some stunning guitar lines. Damon Sawyer and Nick Drury provide the engine room and the piano of Tracey Browne and James Anthony Turner’s harmonica complete the decorations. Sunshine State Of Mind is an excellent album to start your new year with.
Artist’s website: https://oneblokeonemandolin.com/
‘Breathe’ – an old solo live recording: