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Sam Lee - The Fade In Time (Album Review)

Tuesday, 14 April 2015 Written by James Ball

Sam Lee loves music. It seems obvious that you should, in order to become a musician, but with this North London-raised troubadour, the sentiment is more fitting than in most other cases.

Having spent a good portion of time collecting, restoring and sharing traditional arrangements and folk songs, it comes as no surprise that the former Mercury nominee draws inspiration from a number of different styles and the rich sounds of assorted cultures with this, his second offering.

‘The Fade In Time’ is, to all intents and purposes, a covers album. But it’s not any old covers album – it’s an “old” covers album, one influenced by Lee’s mentor, the Traveller musician Stanley Robertson, and the music of Gypsy communities.

Inspiration appears to be a running theme here, too. Lee does not want for any of these tracks to be misunderstood and, in a rare touch, the lyric booklet also features snippets from Lee about a song’s origins, why he’s chosen to record it, and/or a short story describing how he found it.

Lee’s voice lends itself perfectly to the tracks, never demanding to take centre stage ahead of the music. The songs are complete works, enhanced by the choice of instrumentation. Lee is haunting, but never depressing. Soft but sincere. He inhabits these songs, as much as his music has been informed by their history and his life experiences.

There is a very good chance that folk aficionados will sit up and take notice of this album, and so they should. It will thrill them, leading them on an interesting, clever and respectful journey around a series of songs given a new lease of life.

‘The Fade In Time’ may not convert many people who do not listen to this type of music already, and that is perhaps what separates this very good album from being a great one. But that’s fine. Sam Lee loves music and here, the music loves him back.

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