Sam Lee prepares fourth album for release

Sam Lee is one of the most distinctive voices in British folk, who also makes some of the most innovative sounds with his song arrangements which bring a modern sensibility to an old feeling and brings those two disparate parts together into one magical whole.  His latest album ‘songdreaming‘ will be released by Cooking Vinyl on 15th March 2024.  It’s an album that’s familiarly Sam Lee – dealing with issues of environmental concern and inclusivity and a genuine desire to remind people both how beautiful and how fragile the world we dwell on is.  Working once again with producer Bernard Butler and long-term collaborator James Keay ‘songdreaming’ is, though, wide in scope and ambition. Adding electric guitar to the more regular staples of double bass, violin, and percussion that have always been the base of Sam’s music and embellished with a truly global sweep of options from the French Horn and small pipes to the Nyckelharpa (a Swedish keyed fiddle) and the Qanun (an Arabic String instrument), ‘songdreaming’ is an album that is sonically far removed from the traditional ideas of Sam as a purely British folk performer.

There is a deliberate reframing and reimagining of tradtions in Sam Lee’s music – and it’s a necessary thing to keep the music alive which is a key ambition for him, as he notes Sam notes that when the songs fade into the forgotten, so the resilience that they contain also fades in ways he sees reflected in the perilous ecological and social state in which we find ourselves: “When our nation experienced the oral tradition of folk song rapidly die out around the middle of the last century, that is when biodiversity also collapsed in this country. Language, cultural diversity and biodiversity are intrinsically linked, and this is speaking globally not just in Britain. If you look at the indigenous Amazonian cultures and their homeland, they correspond to exactly where the biologically diverse hot spots are. Humans make the best stewards of nature, we are gardeners. Those people who are and were singing the old songs here at home were also looking after the land. As we stopped singing with the land, the land stopped singing back.”

A first sample of this music is ‘Meeting Is A Pleasant Place‘, which features ‘Trans Voices’ – a choir, made up entirely of gender non-binary and trans singers.  The song has a message, as Sam Lee has noted “this song subtly demands that our natural heritage needs to be accessible to everyone no matter of cultural origin, gender sexual orientation or heritage. ‘Meeting’ implicitly remarks on the queerness that nature exemplifies, an expelling of masculine hegemonies and a rematriation of the land. ‘Meeting’ is a soulful call to arms, an anthem of ecological and multicultural emancipation, a denial of that segregation we’ve endured from our motherland and a psychological and literal disappearing of barbed wire all through the power of song. ‘Meeting’ is an anthem for a future that holds a nature-centric ideology at its heart. It asks what equality could feel like within the custodianship of our common stories both ancient and modern, and what guardianship of a nature-enriched and nature-centred England, Britain and World could be.”  The accompanying video was filmed on Dartmoor, a place rich in human history and which man exploited for centuries for mineral and building stone extraction but which is now dotted with locations where nature has taken back and healed these scars.  Where better to make Sam Lee’s point?

About Jonathan Aird 2689 Articles
Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?
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