Crooner Folk – Traditional Edition.
Whenever I approach a Sam Lee album, I’m always slightly left in awe about how diverse his brand of folk music has become over the years. He often takes old traditional rhymes, poems or folk songs and gives them a completely new wardrobe. ‘Old Wow’ follows the same formula offering more of the same. As a result, that means you’ll be entirely surprised at how it branches out from the umbrella of ‘folk’.
Sam’s olde crooner voice powers through the ten tracks with ease. He captures the smoky rock of ‘Lay This Body Down’, that feels theatrical and moody with ease whilst also enjoying the acoustic jig of ‘The Garden of England’. His voice is expressive with a nasal tinge when he brings in power that makes Sam extremely versatile. I personally enjoy his big and bold folk approach and very much follow the mantra ‘the old wow never wears thin’.
From there Sam Lee explores a variety of different folk guises. Haunting piano and string ballad ‘The Moon Shines Bright’ features Elizabeth Fraser in a beautiful duet. Fraser is slightly underutilised but the track is still stunning. The brass ballad of ‘Jasper Sea’ is tender still – evoking a late Kate Bush feel.
Other tracks are more take a travelling folk band approach. ‘Soul Cake’ has a gallop to it that makes it playful, enticing and exciting. ‘Turtle Dove’ moves towards jazzy symphonic crooner arenas. The string and piano arrangements here are inventive as the bend and twist notes and chords. It feels like you are soaring through a hurricane. ‘Spencer the Rover’ straddles a nursery rhyme and a militant march in terms of its feeling.
The overall feel of the album reminds me of black and white 50’s songs though. Just in a folk makeup. Nowhere is this made more whimsical and timeless as closer ‘Balnafanen’. The song has the gentlest of keyboards, guitars, bass and vocals that harks back to old Christmas movies. Sam Lee’s voice fits that era and feel too and it is a magical ending to a wild ride.
Sam Lee is one of the musicians I feel may get more appreciation from musos than regular listeners because of how thoughtfully presented and produced his music is. There is never a huge riff. There is no statement-of-intent hook. ‘Old Wow’ is an album that feels a ride of time and emotion and its one that grew on me with every listen. I’m glad I gave it time to gel with me before I wrote about it – I feel like I understand it better now. Whilst it hasn’t quite hit the heights of ‘The Fade In Time’ for me personally, there is a lot of old wow factor to enjoy.
Recommended track: Balnafanen
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