Sunday, 24 November 2013

SAM CARTER

Live Review

Newhampton Folk Club

With the smell of fresh paint still hanging in the air Sam Carter was the first act to enjoy the newly decorated surroundings of the Newhampton Folk Club.

Sam Carter
Carter opened at the upper room of the Newhampton pub with a light-hearted love song which has a refrain similar to one of those bizarre named country & western songs such as Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life. Carter's offering was Pheasant which was loosely inspired by roadkill and has the line "You flattened me like a pheasant on a country lane".
Straight away you see how precise Carter's guitar picking is, he has probably the most flexible fingers on the circuit. Unfortunately a lot of the time his voice doesn't match the quality of his playing and he is not the easiest of singers to listen to.
Carter's range is limited and he doesn't seem as at ease with his singing as he does with his guitar playing and it certainly doesn't match his skill with words and song writing.
His voice struggled at the upper end of his range which was evident with his ballad Separate Ways however,when he drops his voice down to the lower, softer end of his range it is quite smooth and silky and much easier on the ear.
He does have a confident stage presence and keeps his sets moving along with anecdotes about the inspirations behind his songs some of which are quite moving.
Hired Hands is an ultra-relevant song about they way businesses treat their loyal workers as a commodity and was again a great showcase for his excellent and almost mesmerising finger picking. The sad thing is that it would have been just a relevant had he written it 20 years ago and will probably still be so in 20 years time.
His skilled hands carried on the exact playing into another ballad She Won't Hear you.
The touching tale behind Here In The Ground, a tribute to his elder sister who died aged three when he was a very young child, gave it pathos and it had a lovely gentle opening, the lyrics conveyed the effect such a tragedy has on a family but, and at the risk of sounding harsh, unfortunately the tone of his voice didn't really convey the sentiments too well.
Carter's voice did seem much more suited to Lumpy's Lullaby which was a present to his sister and her, at the time, unborn child. It had a chirpy Camberwick Green-style lilt to it with a bouncy beat similar to Right Said Fred - the Bernard Cribbins version not the band.
Sam Carter

A less jaunty ballad followed As Long As You Hear Me which is about growing old together and showed how Carter can paint mind pictures with his words you could almost see the couples he was singing about.
He pulled out a couple from his Keepsakes album with Oh Dear, Rue the Day which is a traditional ballad with Carter's own arrangement and then Yellow Sign another of his own songs observing the events of a tangled love affair which ended in violence.
Carter, like several other folk musicians, has become enamoured of shape note which originates from the gospel traditions and church choruses of the 1800s and is designed for community singing relying on adding shapes to the musical notations to make it easier for singers to identify the pitch.
This style he transferred to Made of Money and was a perfect foil for his guitar playing and actually suited his voice better. It had a feeling of a slower version of Hollywood Beyond's Colour of Money.
Carter then mixed the styles up a little with a soft ballad again from Keepsakes, Spill Those Secrets, which was followed by No Other Side from his latest album No Testament and had a feel of a 1960s beat sliding occasionally into a jazzy sound which again showed off his clever guitar play and his ability to jump in and out of chords without blinking.
As Carter said a folk sessions without a song about a sea disaster just isn't cricket and his offering was Bones which was a simple tale of a shipwreck simply told, this moved into a more bluesy song Where Can I Go Now, Carter is not bad when it comes to singing blues he just needs a little more spirit in his mojo.
The One was a somewhat fatalist song about the doomed nature of love and relationships which was followed by another of his shape note offerings, The Garden Hymn, with a rich spiritual sound to it but unfortunately again his voice was creaking at the top end of the range.
Towards the end of the set came Taxi, unsurprisingly about a taxi journey it's not the best of his ballads and had the feel of a Chris Wood ditty but not as fluid, insightful or witty but again the song was redeemed by his guitar picking.

Certainly worthy of mention is the supporting duo Velvet Green who are husband and wife Sue and Paul Matthews from Wolverhampton who frequent the Woodman Folk Club, Kingswinford in the West Midlands. They work together very well as a duo but it has to be said Mrs Matthews has a gorgeous and waterfall clear voice which is perfect for folk and traditional music.