Folk singer, naturalist, author, event promoter and song collector, Sam Lee has contributed hugely to the folk music scene in the UK, since his early days of volunteering at Cecil Sharp House (the home of English folk music) up to his latest project working spearheading English Heritage’s ‘Songs of England’. It’s no surprise, then, that in his third album, Old Wow+, he has pulled together some big names that include a vocal performance from Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins), performances by Cosmo Sheldrake and production by Bernard Butler (Suede).
The album is a reissue of the original ‘Old Wow’, which was released 16 months ago, with this edition including six extra songs that include new material that grew out of his English Heritage collaboration. The 19-date tour begins in Norwich this Wednesday 19 October and finishes in Glasgow on the 27th November.
His book, The Nightingale: Notes on a Songbird, came out in March 2021.
Sam Lee’s 2021 UK Tour Dates
|13 October||NORWICH||Norwich Arts Centre|
|14 October||SHEFFIELD||Firth Hall, University of Sheffield|
|17 October||HEBDEN BRIDGE||Trades Club|
|20 October||BRISTOL||St George’s|
|21 October||SOUTHAMPTON||Turner Sims|
|23 October||MANCHESTER||RNCM Theatre (matinee 2pm)
Manchester Folk Festival
|24 October||MORECAMBE||More Music|
|25 October||COLCHESTER||Colchester Arts Centre|
|31 October||STROUD||Sub Rooms|
|02 November||BRIGHTON||The Old Market|
|04 November||TOTNES||St Mary’s Church|
|Pound Arts Centre
St Paul’s Church
|07 November||UPPINGHAM||Goldmark Gallery|
Gosforth Civic Theatre
|27 November||GLASGOW||GUU (Glasgow University Union)|
Inspired by nature, magic, death and renewal, Sam Lee’s third album of moody, melancholic folk has a dark beauty. An innovative musician and environmental activist, Lee reworks traditional folk songs and spirituals to create haunting fusions. Arrangements are rich without being overpowering, with double bass, strings and piano accompanying Lee’s soulful baritone.
Produced by Suede’s Bernard Butler, the album also introduces instruments previously unheard in Lee’s works – notably the guitar and electric guitar, both played sensitively by Butler. The Moon Shines Bright, featuring Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins, is a particular highlight, a beautiful hymn to the night sky, while Soul Cake is a captivating musical odyssey, moving from the old folk anthem Green Grow the Rushes to a modern romance of sweeping strings and eerie whistling.
Following Lee’s experience of performing within the ancient circle of Stonehenge for English Heritage’s Songs of England project, Old Wow has now been rereleased with six extra tracks: Awake, Awake Sweet England / John Barleycorn / Lay This Body Down (Live) / The Moon Shines Bright (Live) / Tan Yard Side / Improvisation. The final two bonus tracks showcase the trilling talents of nightingales, with which Lee duets beautifully, although the repetitive reverberating score running beneath Tan Yard Side rather ruins the effect. That’s the only criticism, however, in an altogether lovely collection of tracks.
Reviewed by MH