Sun 16 Feb Doors 7.30pm
Price: £17.50 adv + Booking fee
Sam Lee plays a unique role in the British music scene.
A highly inventive and original singer, folk song interpreter, a passionate conservationist, committed song collector and a successful creator of live events. Alongside his organisation The Nest Collective and fellow collaborators Sam has shaken up the live music scene breaking the boundaries between folk and contemporary music and the assumed place and way folksong is heard. He’s injected a renewed passion into this old material, helping to develop its ecosystem by not only inviting in a new listenership but also interrogating what the messages in these old songs hold for us today. With his forthcoming album, Old Wow, he’s summonsed up a truly compelling and emotional album that takes his work to yet another level.
He may not intend to, but Sam Lee always surprises. When he released his first album ‘Ground Of Its Own’ in 2012, he dared to dramatically re-work old songs by matching his direct and rich singing style against an extraordinary backdrop of sound, making use of anything from Jews harps, trumpets, fiddles, banjo or the drone effects of an Indian Shruti box. This bravely original set made possible by a prestigious Arts Foundation award, set up to ‘support artists at a breakthrough moment in their careers’ made an immediate impact and the album was shortlisted for a Mercury Music Prize.
Three years later, Sam’s second album ‘The Fade In Time’ saw him break further new ground and receive accompanying accolades including a Songlines Award for artist of the year. This time the backing included cello, ukulele, Japanese koto, willow flute, and, most startling of all, an exquisite acapella treatment of Lovely Molly backed by the massed ranks of the Roundhouse Choir. This song received much attention being performed at the 2016 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards at London’s Royal Albert Hall winning Best Traditional Track and subsequently performed on BBC TV’s ‘Later with Jools’, NPR's Tiny Desk sessions and in 2018 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Proms where Sam hosted a Folk Prom alongside Julie Fowlis. But possibly the largest audience Sam found himself being heard by was when Guy Ritchie chose him to write the lead song for his epic Hollywood fantasy King Arthur: Legend of the Sword from which ‘The Devil and The Huntsman’ was born receiving tens of millions of plays internationally.
Sam is also a founding member of the organisation Music Declares Emergency, in which the UK music industry is convening to acknowledge and address how it can combat the climate and ecological crisis. His close involvement with Extinction Rebellion led to a memorable finale to their two-week ‘International Rebellion’ in April 2019. Thanks to Sam, nightingales really could be heard in Berkeley Square, at least for one night, as he led a 1500 strong crowd for an evening celebrating the uprising and bring the awareness back to the endangered species and the environment. It culminated in the communal singing of his revised version of ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square’ while the bird’s song was streamed through everyone's mobile phones in a scene reminiscent of that great musical eco-warrior who went before, Pete Seeger. Yes, Sam plays a unique role in the British music scene. And now, with Old Wow he has re-worked traditional songs to create what he describes as “a timeless bridge, music that can be looking both backward and forwards, and a soulful accompaniment to an urgent need to fall back in love with nature if we are to know how to protect it”.