There’s a persistent deep rumbling shuddering around the room as Simon Cousins takes to the stage on this Saturday evening as part of the Mathew Street fringe festival. It’s upstairs at the Zanzibar and the deep rumbling happens to be the band playing downstairs, seeping up the staircase and threatening to drown out the somewhat quieter ambiance of the upstairs acoustic room. Topping the bill on a day of acoustic and folk artistry, and making his debut at the Mathew Street Festival, Simon delivers an acoustic solo set of low-key, ambient, folk-yokel influenced songs.

Simon Cousins is Wiltshire born, turned local boy, former bass player from late-80s Liverpool country-pop band The Onset. Simplicity is the order of the day for the set. There’s no flamboyance in Simon’s handling of the guitar, just simple picks and strokes to provide a simple accompaniment to the crisply delivered vocals. Think James Taylor delivered in a higher octave, with a distinct theme of dreamy love, temporary heartbreak, and romantic nostalgia flowing from song to song. This is typified early on by Lover’s Embrace, a gentle tale of the highs and lows of love, and featuring an end of chorus guitar run straight out of George Harrison’s songbook. The Fact I Love You Now continues the theme, taking an observationalist approach to romanticism and quite obviously pointing out that love may change over time, but will always be present at a single moment in time. The Miner’s Daughter stands out as a testament to yesterday’s possibilities. A nostalgic, if not slightly chilling look back at youth gone by.

A cover of In My Life divides the set into two and reminds us that this is indeed the Mathew Street festival. The second half of the set veers towards the darker side of love with both Broken Dreams and Love’s Counterfeit conveying a certain level of distrust. It’s interesting that such themes follow the earlier positivity, but is brought to an end on an uncertain note through Country Girl, seemingly a tale of the joys of chasing the fairer sex, but the possibility that the chase may in fact be endless.

It’s clear that much of the content of this set is derived from real life experience, and this goes a long way to providing the extra spark that may be considered missing from a less flamboyant artist. Simon Cousins isn’t a performer who relies on fancy guitar flicks to get his message across, and instead presents a series of tales that gradually unravel to build a story of the mystery of life.

Released: Fri 10th Sep 2010