- Audio CD (25 Jun. 2012)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: The Nest Collective
- ASIN: B0083ZT7SK
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Vinyl | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,112 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
Ground Of Its Own
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"Ground Of Its Own" is the Barclaycard Mercury Prize nominated and striking debut release by Sam Lee, a young musician who is busy forging a unique path in the future of folk song. 'Ground of Its Own' is an 8-track release (produced by Gerry Diver and with mixes by John Wood, of Nick Drake fame) comprising traditional material, largely discovered through Sam's years of dogged research and exploration of often long forgotten songs. Not content to learn only from books or records, Sam has sourced most of his material direct from English Gypsy and Irish and Scottish traveller communities This versatile, pioneering, charismatic, provocateur has created a memorable album of depth and vitality.
Formerly a visual artist, teacher of wilderness survival skills and burlesque dancer, Sam Lee jacked in all of these colourful careers to learn folk songs. Studying under the great balladeer and traveller Stanley Robertson, Lee gathered scores of traditional songs, and Ground of Its Own is Lee’s interpretation of eight of them.
Unlike most of his contemporaries, he sourced songs directly from oral tradition rather than via book research. Many are from gypsy and traveller communities and, in the sleevenotes, Lee is careful to credit the families from whom he learned them.
It means his feel for the songs is obvious. His delivery is intimate, and he inhabits the stories totally, letting the songs breathe into him rather than imposing his own personality onto them. However, many listeners simply won’t take to these vocals. His modern London twang is more akin to Damon Albarn than to a ballad singer.
Yet, persevere: because, with repeated listens, Lee’s voice makes increased sense. It’s clear that he uses his idiosyncratic vocals not to parody the songs, but to stamp his own era and experiences onto them.
Musically it’s a hodgepodge, but this approach works more often than not. The languid trumpets of On Yonder Hill contrast strikingly with the nerve-shredding shruti box on The Tan Yard Side. When the arrangements do misfire, it tends to be because of caution (as on the pedestrian percussive opener, The Ballad of George Collins), rather than because of too much ambition.
Most interesting of all is Wild Wood Amber. On this, Lee marries a simple and affecting Sussex folksong with a 1919 recording of the operatic intermezzo, Thaïs’ Méditation. The timeless, austere melancholia of the lyrics meets the mannered, schmaltzy melodrama of the early 20th century piano piece. On paper it should be a gruesome novelty, yet it’s extremely original and touching.
Ground of Its Own is a very likeable debut. Lee knows these songs are wind-whipped survivors and he meets their fearless spirit with plenty of innovation and the greatest of respect. His interpretations can stand proudly within these songs’ long histories.
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Top Customer Reviews
Update - short listed for the Mercury Prize 2012 but sadly not the winner. Sorry, this is a debut album so no previous works to compare.
Goodbye my darling is my choice to be top of an outstanding selection but just listen to the trumpet on On yonder hill or the brilliant combination of instuments on Wildwood amber . If you love folk music or just good music buy this album.
To Leonardo27, who objects to the anti-semitic song "The Jew's Garden" (Sam Lee is Jewish, and so am I) I would suggest simply reading the booklet notes, which make Sam's point of view on this very very clear - as already noted, the target isn't Jews it's the medieval English. (That's assuming you can read the booklet notes - good eyesight and good light essential as it's ultra-trendy very thin, light-grey print on a cream-coloured background with the odd brown line right across some of the words.)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I wasn't sure about Sam Lee at first, not being that keen on his voice. After being knocked out by the arrangements (of which his voice is crucial to the mix of instrumental... Read morePublished 2 months ago by N. Tillotson
Sam Lee has an seductive voice, a riveting presence, and his interpretations of old folk songs (seasoned with gypsy undertones) are evocative and sometimes haunting. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Colleen
Great voice for the genre and accomplished delivery of the tradition.Published 17 months ago by K A B
5 stars for the music.
Auto rip was advertised on this cd but it never materialised.
Sam Lee's gypsy-inspired offerings manage to feel both traditional and contemporary, thanks to exciting and creative arrangements that successfully combine individual flair with... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Keir Alexander
I love Sam Lee's voice, his charisma, his musicians, his choice of songs and his inventive creative treatment of them.
. Read more