SERIOUS SAM BARRETT – A Drop Of The Morning Dew (Crow Lane Records CL001)

A Drop Of The Morning DewSerious Sam Barrett is a songwriter and an interpreter of traditional songs and he does both with great aplomb. This set of eighteen songs, A Drop Of The Morning Dew was recorded live at one of the north’s leading folk clubs, the famous Bacca Pipes in Keighley, just Sam, his voice and his guitar.

If you’ve not heard Sam live you might be surprised by his first song, the unaccompanied ‘Every Night Has An Ending’ which is his reworking of ‘Derry Gaol’. You could hear a pin drop until the end when some members of the audience couldn’t resist having a little hum. I should say that the recording is exemplary which is not always the case with club recordings. Kudos to James Atkinson for his work on the recording and mixing.

The second track, ‘Alf’s Song’, about Sam’s grandfather, a leatherworker and trade union leader gives Sam the chance to display his finger-picking skills and introduces three songs influenced by his years touring with The Pine Hill Haints from Alabama. The first, ‘Drive Your Way Home’, is an ode to the life of the travelling musician and is embellished with slide guitar; the second, ‘Sailor’s Song’, is borrowed from something the Haints were playing when he was writing it and the third, ‘Back On The Jack’, is described by Sam as a “simple, honest drinking song”.

At this point, Sam turns to the tradition with ‘The Female Drummer’, although he’s written his own tune which fits the song very well. From there with have ‘Holmfirth Anthem’, ‘The Recruited Collier’, ‘Bushes And Briars’ for which Sam switches to banjo and then ‘Liverpool Packet’ with the enthusiastic assistance of the Bacca Pipes audience. A fine selection of northern songs.

‘Last Of The Yorkshire Outlaws’ is another guitar show-off piece: an ode to the clientele of a Leeds pub. We’ve all known a pub like this – and possibly been thrown out of one, too. It’s a knockout song and much appreciated by the crowd. Back to the tradition with ‘The Wagonner’ and ‘Was On An April Morning’ and then comes the title track. I naively supposed that ‘A Drop Of The Morning Dew’ was about poteen but it’s rather more innocent, being a custom from folklore that recommends washing the face in the morning dew to maintain a youthful glow.

Sam continues with four more of his own songs. ‘Long Gone’ is a waltz inspired by his travels in the southern US and ‘Where The White Roses Grow’, back on banjo, brings him back to his childhood home in the Yorkshire dales. He describes ‘Darling Where You Are’ as an “attempt to make universal statements in each verse” which is quite a challenge. Finally, ‘Lullaby Of Leeds’ is his attempt at a pop song to make an audience sing along – not that they need much encouragement.

What I like about Sam is his ability to blend English traditional song with the styles of the USA and his own songwriting and his willingness to move between them. His singing has an intensity – “serious” is a good description for him. I wish I could have watched his body language during this performance; I’m sure there’s a smile or two in there.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘Last Of The Yorkshire Outlaws’ – officially live: