SAM LEE – songdreaming (Cooking Vinyl)

songdreamingSam Lee’s songdreaming deepens the coloured hues, with big cinema drama, into the old photos of countless Ten Man Mop British folk albums. Perhaps, this one is not for the purists. Now, while each song has a traditional folk deoxyribonucleic acid, the musical polymer in all the tunes gets stretched, twisted, dilated, ignited, and then caressed with “sources as diverse as sacred music of European and global mystic traditions and the work of neo-classical contemporary composers”, all haloing Sam’s immaculate cautionary ghost-risen from the Crossroads (and magically human!) voice.

Case in point: The first song, ‘Bushes And Briars’, which was delightfully sung by Julie Christie in the movie adaptation of Far From The Madding Crowd, begins with the simplicity of an acoustic guitar and slight percussion, but the song, with tense piano and violin, digs into deep psychology and roams the passion of Bathsheba’s ill-fated suitor, Farmer Boldwood, with deep current intensity.

The same is true for ‘Meeting Is A Pleasant Place’, with its piano-graced beginning. But then an electric guitar guts a deep groove, while backing vocals send the song into a lovely and weird Greek chorus orbit.

And ‘McCrimmon’ rumbles with a John Martyn pulsed Danny Thompson double bass, while Sam’s voice soars with quiet beauty. A piano adds to the mix. The song drips with traditional-arranged aged emotion, but in nice juxtaposition, simple electronics float over the melody of an aged sheepherder’s ambered song.

The same is also true for ‘Leaves Of Life’. Indeed, this is folk music, but to get all mythological again, just like the Greek hero Theseus, Sam Lee, when venturing into a labyrinth (and songdreaming does venture into folk secretly walked uncertainty), is clever enough to spin a woven threaded certain passage back to a good “Anthem” in an always remembered “Eden”.

‘Green Mossy Banks’ is an interlude with a simple folk song with a piper’s melodic sympathy. Nice.

But then things get wonderfully epic. ‘Aye Walking On’ is a musical tapestry with intense colour. The song shimmers like an extraterrestrial light that beams on Sam Lee’s own Lancastrian very local mossy-stoned graveyard. And these songs continue to touch ancient sacred soil. This is ‘Great Valerio’ stuff. Thankfully, ‘Dreams Of The Returning’ continues the drama, with a slight river reflective violin graced reverie, as the tune’s melody “seems hung from cloud to cloud”. Then, the tension tugs with the bare-knuckled ‘Black Dog And The Sheep Crook’. The tune conjures torn passion, as a true love, Dinah (and perhaps the universe, itself!) “proves unkind”.

My friend, Kilda Defnut, says of the song, “The tune proves that the touch of rough sandpaper has a redemptive melody”.

Finally, the soundtrack song, ‘Sweet Girl McRee’ from The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, with its emotional piano and Sam’s deep featherbed voice (plus sainted backing voices), spins the final grooves of songdreaming into a lovely and warm knitted melodious memory of lost time and a sadly unfermented love. It’s a gorgeous tune.

songdreaming is an album of Janus juxtaposition. It glances into the past; and then it stretches, twists, dilates, ignites, and then caresses folk music through a broad modern labyrinth; but thankfully, it always returns to that woven threaded certain passage that leads back to anthems forever and a day sung in anyone’s “green and pleasant Eden”.

Bill Golembeski

Artist’s website:

‘Green Mossy Banks’ – official video:

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