Current journalistic efforts might have us believe that thoughtful, delicate and emotive music is the bastion of bearded Americans who retreat to log cabins to ponder long and hard on the stuff of life. That is why this sophomore album from Sam Lee is not only a great collection of songs but a reminder that you don’t have to retreat from the world to be able to document it. Like a modern day Cecil Sharp he has travelled across this country and beyond, collecting old songs and narratives, music and history and given them new lease of life.
And although my opening description might suggest something fragile and gossamer light, along side the minimalist and plaintive there is a wealth of dynamic highs to match, built from sounds garnered both from the expected European folk canon and through the blaring, clattering horns of central Asia, Bollywood beats, classical vibes and rootless gypsy jazz.
Like Imagined Village before him, Sam is a real collector of songs and styles and understands that folk music goes beyond the conforming, finger in the ear traditions so beloved of the folk police and lies at the very root of cultural identity, the heart of society itself. By blending such together maybe a whole new genre is formed, roots music for the global village perhaps? Now that’s something to aim for.