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.
The best is On Yonder Hill where the part of "lead guitar" is taken by "hunting horn". OK it's actually a trumpet but that's what it (deliberately) sounds like, brilliant, brilliant, absolute genius. The other gem is Goodbye My Darling, which (once it gets going) sounds like Outdoor Miner by Wire, yes, it really does. It's worth the price of admission just for these two tracks alone. Actually it would be worth it just for On Yonder Hill alone.
A word on the earlier review by Leonardo27 who has completely missed the point to an almost unbelievable degree. As Sam explained on a recent Mike Harding show, the song The Jew's Garden is there to demonstrate how the English can be shown in a bad-light regarding anti-semitism. So therefore, one could say that the presence of the song here is effectively anti-English rather than anti-semitic. Was Leonardo27 not aware that Sam is Jewish ? It seems to get mentioned in every interview he does and every article about him.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Something about Sam Lee and this music. I thinkbthis stuff would expkain why the blues was carried to America. British sailors singing old folk songs. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
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 7 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 8 months ago by Colleen
Great voice for the genre and accomplished delivery of the tradition.Published 22 months ago by K A B
5 stars for the music.
Auto rip was advertised on this cd but it never materialised.