ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS | September 11, 2015
English vocalist Sam Lee has an amazing backstory: He found his way to singing professionally after stints as a naturalist and a burlesque dancer. But what really matters are his mesmerizing performances, as well as his incredible ability to connect with people — certainly with the audience in front of him, but also with the elders he’s sought out to learn these songs.
Lee has dedicated himself to preserving centuries-old folk songs of the U.K. and Ireland, particularly from “outsider” communities like the Roma (Gypsies) and the Scottish and Irish Travelers. But he and his bandmates — ukulele player and vocalist Jon Whitten, violinist and vocalist Flora Curzon, and percussionist and vocalist Josh Green — put these ancient songs in thoroughly 21st-century arrangements that feel creative, fresh and surprising, but also deeply human.
Above it all, Lee’s voice blazes through with strength, clarity and confidence. This is an artist who has found his destiny as a singer, a folk-song collector and a steward of stories, keeping them alive and relevant for a new generation.
“Over Yonders Hill”
“Goodbye My Darling'”
Producers: Anastasia Tsioulcas, Morgan Walker; Audio Engineer: Suraya Mohamed, Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Walker, Lani Milton; Assistant Producer: Elena Saavedra Buckley; photo by Lydia Thompson/NPR
Herman’s Hermits’ pop hit “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” was originally sung by acclaimed actor Tom Courtenay in The Lads, a British TV play of 1963, and released as a single in the UK.
Most of us outside the UK are familiar only with Herman’s Hermits’ version, which rose to number one on the charts in May 1965.
Courtenay came to prominence as in actor in the early 1960s with a succession of films, including The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), Billy Liar (1963), and Doctor Zhivago (1965). He received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for the film adaptation of The Dresser (1983),
The song was written by another British actor, Trevor Peacock, who was also a song and screenwriter.
It is nearly 30 since Ewan MacColl died and other recording labels have stolen a march in the issuing of compilation CD’s in the meantime so this collection of his recordings for the Topic label is perhaps long overdue. It is, nevertheless, an interesting collection and a worthy snapshot of his folk singing career. Sadly, the Radio Ballads, perhaps some of MacColl’s most influential work, are absent from this collection – they were issued by Argo Records – but there is still much here that reminds us of his powerful influence in the early days of the folk revival, an influence which prompted one obituary to describe him as the godfather of the folk revival. The material also reflects what Peggy Seeger has described as ‘the policy’ from The Ballads and Blues Club (a title that says much about the material that was performed in those early days of the revival) which MacColl founded in 1953 with a few kindred spirits, namely when you’re onstage you sing folk songs from your own culture. There are songs here which reflect MacColl’s highly politicised upbringing in Lancashire to Scottish parents and the lives of what politicians are wont to describe these days as ‘ordinary working people’ (sic).
The album opens with an early recording – it dates from 1952 – of perhaps his most famous composition, Dirty Old Town, written in 1949, about Salford, the city of his birth. Even at this early stage in his recording career, his characteristic quavering voice is very much in evidence, helped along with a slightly bluesy guitar accompaniment [ . . . ]
Continue at FRUK: Ewan MacColl: An Introduction to Ewan MacColl | Folk Radio