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Ground Of Its Own

4.3 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Product details

  • 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 (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 32,556 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product description

Product Description

"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.

BBC Review

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.

--Daryl Easlea

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
5 stars for the music.

Auto rip was advertised on this cd but it never materialised.
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Heard an interview with Sam on Front Row and was intrigued. I have moved away from folk music in the last decade but the snippets I heard made the hairs on the back of my hand stand up. I don't say this lightly. Here is a great new voice reinterpreting the folk tradition for modern times. His voice is exquisite, carrying all the emotional lament for the past within its nuance. The arrangements are out there, using Jaw harp and other instruments to build up incredible layers of sound. Buy this album. Be blown away and thank the gods of old there are still people out there making music for music's sake and not just the mindless pap of ages or the froth of reality tv. Well done Sam, more please.
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Here is a wonderfully crafted new album by a relative newcomer to the genre. I'm no knit-your-own-youghourt folkie but Lee's approach is gentle and intelligent and he makes a tune unfold beautifully in ways you would not expect. Most are truly moving - Goodbye my Darling and the Tan Yard Slide are lyrical and sad - whilst a couple of jolly foot-tappers will lift your mood. His medieval-styled lyrics coupled with the use of unexpected instruments - marimba, trumpet, sleigh-bells, steel drums, clarinet (from what I can hear) - are idiosyncratic but they just work - a mark of someone who really 'gets' music. His voice is magnificent, soft and gentle: a lovely instrument. I will certainly be looking to purchase previous albums. I wouldn't get too upset about the anti-semitic sentiment causing a previous reviewer to only give one star. People sing about life, good or bad - deal with it.

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.
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Once in a generation, if we're lucky, an album appears that moves onward and upwards. Think Christy Moore's 'Prosperous' think Sam Lee's 'Ground of its Own'. A pure voice, true to the song itself, captivates. Imaginitive arrangements elevate. It is now, it is then. It is the singer and the song.
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Not a long a detailed review; I am into vocal music, but not heavily into Folk. To summarize my impression of Sam Lee's CD - this is a unique treatment of the music, sung to perfection with deep understanding of what he is singing, combined with a very high degree of musicianship. The singing is haunting, and sensitive, paying as much attention to words as to music, and goes a long way to convert one to a fan of the genre. Impressive debut disc, evidently a labour of love. Looking forward to more. Thanks Sam.
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This has to be album of the year. Not only does Sam Lee have an amazing voice and a fantastic selection of little known songs but the arrangements are fresh different and frankly out of this world.
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.
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I've been waiting for a release by Sam Lee for what seems like ages after hearing the few brilliant things you can find on You Tube. On first listening I already know it's a wonderful record that I'll probably play a 100 times this month, both traditional and new and of course, with that great voice, perfect for folksong. Shame no Puck's song but you can get it on Oak Ash Thorn and I suspect some legal reason for that. I hope this is just the start of many great records. If you like UK folk, a must buy.
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Knowing little about folk music but wanting to move out of a decade-long obsession with electronica, I began searching for the sound I had in my head; something with the heart and melancholy of folk, its ageless sense of doom and danger, but one that would tell your ears it was 2012.
This album certainly fits a good part of the bill.
Lee, a former burlesque dancer, learnt songs directly from gypsy and traveller communities. His arrangements include the use of Chet Baker-esque trumpets and, I think, the hang, during `On Yonder Hill', the mesmerizing drone of shruti boxes on bizarre transgender ballad `The Tan Yard Slide' and snatches of old opera recordings (`Wild Wood Amber'). His voice sounds modern and Londonish without lapsing into dropped h's, glottal stops and innits.
Excellent.
I'm also working my way through some Imagined Village, Spiro and a comp. album called `Weirdlore'. Any recommendations, do pass them on.
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