Review: Sam Lee And Friends Bristol Folk House 9/10 by Keith Clark
SAM Lee's brilliant debut Ground Of Its Own was nominated for the prestige Mercury Prize Album Of The Year and won the Critics Poll Album Of The Year awarded by the specialist magazine fRoots which was presented to him on stage midway through this gig by magazine editor Ian Anderson. His newfound fame ensured that there was a capacity audience for this gig by the London singer during which he showed just why his music is creating such a fuss.
Sam Lee came on accompanied by five musicians and Thomas McCarthy, an Irish traveller who featured throughout the gig singing unaccompanied songs from his own immense repertoire. His song Donal Kenny was absolutely stunning.
Sam has spent a number of years with the gypsy and traveller communities learning their songs and setting them to unconventional arrangements played on equally unusual instruments. In this case that included trumpet, violin, cello, Indian tablas and Jews Harp.
This meant that we were treated to songs from our own folk tradition that have been kept alive thanks to the travellers but are rarely if ever heard like Over Yonder's Hill, Moorlough Maggie and Black Dog And Sheep Crook.
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The Moon Shone On Your Bed Last Night and Tanyard Side were magical.That in itself would have made for a really fascinating gig but the musical arrangements were superb and often went in unexpected directions. The Ballad Of George Collins for instance strayed into jazz territory, there was a Middle Eastern flavour to The Jew's Garden and an Afro-Cuban rhythm to Goodbye My Darling. His singing style was very understated but he used his hands as if conducting an orchestra and danced around the stage, asking the audience: "Can we come back please?" The emphatic answer was a standing ovation.