FOLK renovator Sam Lee will showcase his fourth studio album, songdreaming, on a 17-date tour with Yorkshire gigs at Hebden Bridge Trades Club on March 17, Crookes Social Club, Sheffield, on March 20 and Old Woollen, Farsley, on March 24.
Released on March 15 on Cooking Vinyl, songdreaming represents the latest stage in the development of Londoner Lee’s music, from its roots in curating ancient song to a new way of imagining and performing reworked old songs, making them relevant for a modern audience.
The follow-up to 2020’s Old Wow was recorded throughout 2023, when Lee continued his work with producer Bernard Butler and long-term collaborator, arranger, and composer James Keay in creating an album rich in musicality and invention.
songdreaming may be built on the backbone of double bass, percussion, and violin but is infused with pan-global instrumentation, taking in the Arabic Qanun, Swedish Nyckelharpa, small pipes and more.
Across the ten tracks, Lee delivers an album that ranges from more immediately identifiable acoustic songs to drone soundscapes through to the electric guitar and gospel choir-propelled lead single Meeting Is A Pleasant Place, featuring the recording debut of transgender London choir Trans Voices.
songdreaming incorporates the balladry of Sweet Girl McRee alongside the gospel tinges of Leaves Of Life, while also housing the whiteout noise of Bushes And Briars, a song that details Lee’s rage at the treatment and condition of the natural world.
In taking songs directly related to the nature of the British Isles, he continues to reinvent and contemporise a tradition of communion with the land through song. He duly characterises songdreaming as: “A mosaic of the emotions felt in my time outdoors, that artistically emerge in reflective moments when I’m permitted to recount and articulate the complexity of all I witness and thus feel responsible for”.
Taking an “evocative journey through the complex emotions created for Sam by his engagement with nature and his deep-felt affinity for it”, the album draws on sources as diverse as the sacred music of European and global mystic traditions, the work of neo-classical contemporary composers and the simple effectiveness of a well-delivered vocal melody.
Summing up his connection with nature in song, Lee says: “Those people who are and were singing the old songs here at home were also looking after the land. When we stop singing to the land, the land stops singing back.”
Tour tickets are on sale samleesong.co.uk. songdreaming will be released on Cooking Vinyl on March 15 on vinyl, CD and digital download. Pre-order link: https://SLee.lnk.to/songdreamingPR