sun 29/03/2020

Sam Lee, EartH Hackney - capturing the spirit of the moment | reviews, news & interviews

Sam Lee, EartH Hackney - capturing the spirit of the moment

Sam Lee, EartH Hackney - capturing the spirit of the moment

A strong, resonant and identifiable voice

'Sam Lee captures hearts'Dominick Tyler

Sam Lee has a strong, richly resonant and recognisable voice – and equally strong beliefs. His album Old Wow has really caught the spirit of moment: it is already being hailed as folk album of the year, even the decade, and last night’s gig at EartH in Hackney, the London leg of the album launch tour, was packed.

Sam Lee has a strong, richly resonant and recognisable voice – and equally strong beliefs. His album Old Wow has really caught the spirit of moment: it is already being hailed as folk album of the year, even the decade, and last night’s gig at EartH in Hackney, the London leg of the album launch tour, was packed.

The strength of Lee’s live show is the way that both his stories and his songs work to strike a balance between wanting to celebrate beauty and authenticity and an equally strong imperative and a sense of the urgency to preserve that fragle inheritance – both in folksong and in the world at large. And it is those passions and that sincerity, and Lee’s storytelling strengths which make for a strong live show.

When Lee explains the lengths he has gone to to bring himself into direct contact with people in the British Isles still connected to the handing-down of songs from generation to generation, again it is the urgency of his quest that really shines through. Those researches have taken him to Hampshire, to Scotland, to pubs in Ireland, and even in one instance to a caravan under the flyover at Shepherds Bush.

The story-telling side will take new forms later in the year: his new book The Nightingale – Notes on a Songbird will be published by Penguin in April, and he will be tracing songlines with the Nest Collective, starting in Rusper in West Sussex, in June.Sam LeeAnd what of the music? I had wondered whether the tendency in the album for the songs to revert to a naturally very slow pulse might not create a sameness in the show. Yes, there is always a conscious memory in these arrangements of the 1960s folk-rock revolution, but it was only towards the end of last night that the pace was allowed to quicken, and Lee’s fine band (pictured above by Ollie Tyler), on strong form as the end of this album launch tour approaches, was able to rock out. They did that, when given the opportunity, extremely convincingly. The strong presence of Bernard Butler on guitar – he produced Old Wow – was a real plus.

I suspect I was in a minority to have such reservations. Indeed, the audience seemed to connect most readily with the slower, more unadorned numbers. “Children of Darkness”, performed a capella as a duo with Cosmo Sheldrake, received just about the loudest applause of the evening.

Sam Lee captures hearts, and the audience’s standing ovation at the end was as heartfelt as the performance.

@sebscotney

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