CD Reviews

Milk Man Son - Stew Simpson

Whap Music WW0012

Lucy Irid

Firstly, yes I know Stew but probably not as well as most people who review MoM CD’s. Secondly I have promised Stew I will be totally honest. So here goes.

MMS is an eclectic album. It feels like a show case or a live album without an audience.

*Spoiler Alert* I was surprised that it started with a spoken word track. Stew, being part actor as well everything else, has a beautiful, rhythmic voice for recitation with his lovely Geordie lilt.

On the whole I think I prefer the unaccompanied tracks. This might be because as a ‘raw’ semi- live album the guitar feels a bit too far forward. When I went into the next room, the vocal travelled futher and I thought that improved the balance.

Fangle Dooble Doozer, another spoken word track, made me laugh out loud.

This is an album I will continue to listen to and will discover more of the lyrics with that repeated listening. I haven’t mentioned them here as I think there is more to them than I can do justice to on so few listens.

So far Ee Aw Ah Cud Hew, one of the few tracks not written by Stew, is my favourite. It’s a strong, passionate vocal and a beautiful tone.

And yes, I’m very much looking forward to seeing Stew at MoM, solo and with Hadrian’s Union. He’s a great performer with a beautiful voice – and rather natty outfits. What more do you want!

Tony Hendry - Living Tradition

This is a debut solo album from Stew Simpson, the exuberant front man of Hadrian’s Union. Nicely produced by Saul Rose, it is stripped back and intimate, with Stew singing unaccompanied or backing himself on acoustic guitar.

Stew is a proud Geordie. The unaccompanied songs come mostly from the North East’s mining heritage: Benny Graham’s Have A Game For The Crack, Dave Mountford’s Big Hewer, Tommy Armstrong’s Trimdon Grange and Ed Pickford’s Ee Aw Ah Cud Hew. The last, in particular, demands a powerful voice and Stew handles it confidently. You hear that raw power again on Where Did You Sleep Last Night, based on Nirvana’s version of the enigmatic traditional song popularised by Leadbelly.

The six self-written songs show a very different side of Stew’s talents. They are tender and personal, sometimes elusive, with strong melodies which stick like chuddy on pavements. 1994, about growing up in Newcastle, stands out for me. Voice Of The People is his tribute to Roy Bailey, though it’s not too obvious. Stew lets the songs speak for themselves, but I’d have loved some liner notes to give some background on his choices.

With two of his surrealist poems thrown in for good measure, this 43-minute album is an unusual mixture. Too much variety? Maybe, but Stew wins me over not just with his skills, but with the warmth of his delivery. He’s an engaging live performer, too, and definitely worth catching somewhere down the road.

Dave Weddle

Stew has made his name as an accomplished artist, actor and solo artist as well as the front man for folk rockers Hadrian's Union.

His solo album, 'Milk Man Son' is an eclectic mix of singing, guitar and poetry with a unique Geordie twist bringing richness to this creative triumph.

Starting with the poetically abstract 'An Eyeball In My Dragon Soup ' Stew takes your imagination on a bit of an unusual adventure, leading you on to the first of his musical tracks, the nostalgic '1994' which is a treat for the ears.

My personal highlights were 'Be In The Now' which I have been humming daily since hearing it, with 'Nu Clear Action' following as a close second.

After a real rollercoaster of emotions Stew brings the journey to an end with a superb rendition of 'Where Did You Sleep Last Night'.

Overall 'Milk Man Son' shows off Stew's creativite prowess in song writing, poetry and of course the individual artwork available with the limited edition version of the album.

Toe tapping goodness, thought provoking songs, abstract poetry with a splash of humour thrown in to the mix, this album has it all.