Sam Gleaves has an authenticity and sincerity to his traditional country folk music artistry that is best experienced live. Fortunate for me then, as I saw him live at The Cambridge Folk Festival this last weekend and found myself drawn in by the quiet strength of his music and performance. Sam has a very likeable and appealing demeanour on stage that allows the audience to be at ease and fully immerse themselves in the roots of the music as he rolls seamlessly through, song after song.
He started out his set with a traditional song called ‘Johnny’ that was sung a cappella in a delicate, slightly sorrowful tone and garnered a loving and immediate response from the crowd. He followed that with an old Irish song called ‘My Singing Bird’ accompanied only by his banjo. I found it sweet, melodious and quite upbeat.
Next, he played the title track to his previous album, ‘Ain’t We Brothers’ that he wrote himself about an openly gay coal miner who suffered great abuse in his community that came across very clear, honest and true to the heart of the song. ‘Jack He Went A Sailing’, was a traditional song he then performed. He introduced every song with thoughtful anecdotes and stories that set each piece up.
The subsequent song that followed had an endearing and inviting story to it titled, ‘Stockyard Hill’. It’s about his great aunt Corrine Thompson with whom Sam is very close. So, he decided to sit down and interview her to build a song around her life years ago. Again, he used only the banjo as accompaniment and it was a thoughtful and charming tune as it picked up tempo towards the end getting the audience replying in kind to it.
He proceeded with another endearing traditional folk tune called ‘Shady Grove’ but then switched to his fiddle for ’Sally Ann’ which he relayed was used as a square dance song and it seemed apt for that as it had a fast, lively tempo.
He then sang a song from his new collaborative album with Tyler Hughes called, ‘When We Love’ who wrote the music and the lyrics, and it was effortlessly beautiful in delivery. It is normally sung by Tyler but he was unable to be there on the day. The penultimate song he performed was ‘Keep Your Eyes On The Prize’ and again, had a captivating story behind as much of traditional folk music does. It was a Civil Rights song and which apparently has been used profusely in that regard. Sam made it into a sing-a-long and the crowd fully partook.
To round out his set, Sam sang ‘Home, Dearie Home’. He learned the traditional song from another artist he toured with last year here in the UK, Peggy Seager. A graceful end to an enchanting collection of songs.
Should you have the opportunity to see Sam at one of his upcoming dates, I highly recommend that you do. There is a genuineness that will leave you contented and convinced of the value traditional folk music and how enjoyable it is to hear live.
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