Charlie Simpson – Young Pilgrim (2011)

charliesimpson-youngpilgrim-artworkCharlie Simpson has been in the music business since the early 2000’s. It’s hard to believe that at only 26 that’s over 10 years on the circuit with his fingers in assorted flavours of musical pie. Young Pilgrim however is his first foray into solo territory, taking a bold step away from his current band Fightstar.

Unlike Fightstar, which is primarily heavy rock with some outings into metal terrain, his solo material is a lot mellower; being mostly acoustic with a distinctly modern folk influence. Opening track ‘Down Down Down’ is a prime example of the rich musicianship as it switches half way through from a one man acoustic effort to a full on Mumford & Sons like toe tapper.

The song writing is very strong with a slightly melancholic heartbreak kind of feel to a lot of the lyrics, yet with a positivity that suggests the negative experiences are in the past and it’s all about moving on and learning from them. The upbeat delivery just helps to reinforce that feeling. It’s the clever writing and execution that puts Charlie Simpson far above some of his peers and shows just how much he’s grown as a musician since his early days in the pop circuit.

There are some calmer moments on Fightstar albums but quite often the vocal was shared with guitarist Alex Westaway. Young Pilgrim expands on the style of some of those songs, though with a more Beach Boys like influence. The lack of secondary vocal doesn’t detract and in fact serves to prove how strong Charlie’s own vocal is. There are also some nice harmonics and backing vocals too.

The only disappointment I can say about the album is that a few tracks have already appeared on the Down Down Down, Parachutes and When We Were Lions EP’s and I’d like to have heard more new music, but I should consider that some of those were demo versions. If that’s the worst I can come up with though I think it’s safe to say I think this record is a winner.

Young Pilgrim is a brilliant album with a peaceful summer feel to it. I defy you to listen to it and not find yourself tapping your toes. Second single ‘Parachutes’ was released as an EP two weeks before the album and contains three versions of the song, but it’s a testament to how good the song is that I was more than happy to listen to it three times in a row.

I’ll be listening to this record over and over I’m sure and suspect it will only grow in strength as I learn and appreciate the songs more over time. I sadly missed his tour date in King Tut’s in Glasgow a couple of months back, but when he comes back around I won’t be making that mistake again as I think it will translate brilliantly to a live performance.

Well done Mr. Simpson. If the doubters who still consider you as ‘that guy from that boy band’ don’t appreciate what you’ve done here, then they really don’t deserve to listen to music, full stop.