It was in 2015 that Sam Kelly released his debut album The Lost Boys, a Featured Album of the Month on Folk Raido UK which Helen Gregory reviewed here. She noted that his unique sound was “informed by folk traditions” but that he was “unafraid to take chances and introduce a harder, rockier edge when the music requires it.” She also capped it off with some equally true words saying the album more than justified “his growing reputation as a performer and deserves to bring him and his band to the attention of a much bigger audience.”
The album did just that, and he’s making a return on October 6th with Pretty Peggy – forget the ‘difficult second album’, this looks set to be his best yet. He is joined in the seven strong line-up by his regular touring and festival band – banjo genius Jamie Francis, Ciaran Algar on fiddle/tenor guitar, Evan Carson on percussion, Graham Coe (cello), Toby Shaer (woodwind) and Archie Churchill-Moss on melodeon.
The entire band share production duties with Ross-Rothero Bourge and Gareth Young. Watch them in action on their new video Chasing Shadows.
Trawling old songs and tunes for this innovative melting pot album, Kelly has found some gems to refashion kicking off with the rousing whaling shanty Greenland Whale which is matched at the other end of the 12-track album by a driving, full-blooded take on the trad English song The Keeper.
Giving the album its title, the Scottish ballad of a thwarted romance between a soldier and ‘pretty Peggy’ – Bonny Lass of Fyvie – has been recorded by a host of performers from Dylan to The Grateful Dead but here it is a given a beautiful kid gloves treatment enhanced by the talents of two of the biggest names in folk – the coffee and cream vocals of Cara Dillon and masterful pipe playing of Mike McGoldrick.
Keeping the Celtic flag flying the album also offers a gentle take on the trad Irish song If I were a Blackbird which breaks into a midway tune based on Chris Wood’s Ville De Quebec and features Ulster’s talented Damien O’Kane on electric tenor guitar.
Apparently written by Stephen Foster in 1850 for The Christy Minstrels, the Appalachian song Angeline the Baker laments the loss of a woman slave sold by her owner in a high energy treatment with Francis’s banjo – a hallmark of this album – leading the way and Geoff Lakeman on spoons duty!
Francis contributes his own arresting song about Scottish border raiders When the Reivers Call with frenetic banjo creating an unsettling scenario.
Just when you think you might have the measure of this album it throws a curve ball with the menacingly, dark tale The Shining Ship – based on the popular 17th century Scottish ballad Demon Lover. Tension builds through a brooding epic treatment of almost six minutes that crashes musical barriers and the mega decibels continue on the high-octane version of Dylan’s Crash on the Levee.
And this album is not without humour – the comedy card is The Close Shave, Bob Bickerton’s tale of mistaken identity in a New Zealand gold mining town (based on the trad song Barrack Street) while in Shy Guys Serve band members throw some excellent tunes into the mix – Josh’s Slip by Shaer and Rookery Lane by Algar.
The entrancing cyclic The Rose brings this diverse album to its conclusion. Sam played mandolin with Belgian band Naragonia in 2016 and has translated their song Le Beau Rosier into English. Hypnotic and strident it showcases the Lost Boys at their best, with its ebb and flow rhythms.
It will be showcased on a UK tour in November/December 2017
Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys Tour
27/11 KINGSKERSWELL Parish Church
28/11 NORWICH Arts Centre
29/11 LONDON Cecil Sharp House
30/11 NEW MILTON Forest Arts Centre
01/12 STAMFORD Arts Centre
02/12 KINGS SOMBORNE Hall
05/12 SHOREHAM BY SEA Ropetackle Centre
06/12 BIDDULPH Up in Arms
07/12 SHEFFIELD The Greystones
Pretty Peggy is out on the 6th October and available to pre-order now.
Photo Credit: Redwood Photography