Ground of Its Own is the striking debut release by Sam Lee, a young folk musician who is busy forging a unique path, not just in his own artistic development but also by supporting and having influence on a whole new generation of musicians.
Born and bred in North London, Sam Lee has a glorious baritone voice and seemingly boundless imagination and enthusiasm. A graduate of the Chelsea College of Art, Sam decided to abandon work as a visual artist, teacher of wilderness survival skills (he was trained by Ray Mears) and a part-time Burlesque dancer. Instead, he embarked on a journey of discovery into the songs of the British Isles. His main musical training developed from a unique four-year apprenticeship under the legendary, late Scottish Traveller, the balladeer, Stanley Robertson, to whom Ground of Its Own is dedicated. Whilst still in his mid 20s, Sam regularly visited Stanley in the North of Scotland where he inherited a vast repertoire of songs as well as an ancient, idiosyncratic singing craft. Sam became inspired to research and document traditional music, a craft which has since led him to become a regular visiting lecturer to Goldsmith’s College and Newcastle University. Sam is also the first folk singer to teach at the Royal College of Music.
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. For example, Northlands is a mighty ballad of betrayal and survival learnt direct from the Cassidy family of Irish Travellers. Meanwhile, On Yonders Hill explores the ever popular theme of the invincibility of the hare in folklore and The Ballad of George Collins, originally collected by Bob Copper from a Sussex Shepherd, Enos White, is given new life with Sam Lee’s highly distinctive delivery.
Live or on record, Sam Lee and his band (Francesca Ter-Berg : Cello, Jonah Brody : Japanese Koto (Harp) Jews Harp & Ukelele, Steve Chadwick : Trumpet & Cornet, Camilo Tirado : Tabla, Percussion & Cantele, Flora Curzon : Violin ; there is even the odd gas cylinder in there too…) present rich tapestries of ancient songs in an innovative and dynamic fashion.
In between times, Sam has became the promoter, live events producer and driving force behind the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winning Magpie’s Nest (now The Nest Collective) organisation which has played a key role in helping to regenerate interest in the live folk music scene, especially amongst younger musicians and audiences, and is the group behind many innovative concerts and festival stages.
In 2011, Sam was presented with the prestigious Arts Foundation Award (by Grayson Perry). That year, he also featured in Vogue Magazine, was a contributor to an 8 part series called ‘Traveller’s Got Talent’ (Sky TV) and was a musical director of a Radio 4 series on the history of the postal service. More recently, Sam has started presenting an eclectic weekly show on Resonance FM Radio.