Wednesday, 8 November 2017


CD Review

Pretty Peggy

Sam Kelly has one of the most recognisable voices around the folk and acoustic scene. His tones feel like a chocolate ganache matured in a smoke house. Kelly was responsible for one of the most beautiful and expressive songs for many years in I'll Give You My voice (see below).

Sam Kelly
For this new album, Pretty Peggy, he has once again surrounded himself with The Lost Boys who are part of a cast which reads like a Who’s Who? of folk and includes Geoff Lakeman, father of the Lakeman folk dynasty, playing spoons no less.

Kelly opens the album with a slapping beat, like waves on the prow of a ship which is appropriate for a track called Looking Out for the Greenland Whale. It sounds like a hybrid of a broadside and a shanty and is full of verve.

Particularly worthy of note is the colour added by Jamie Francis on banjo. About two thirds of the way in there is a distinct change of pace, almost as if Kelly and the band were holding back waiting for a signal to let all hell loose; if you are going to open an album then this is an impressive way to do it.

This gives way to the title track, a tangibly smooth version of a traditional song. Kelly gives his signature warble free reign as part of a lovely ballad which includes another stunning voice - Cara Dillon - who has just released her new album, Wanderer.

Toby Shaer on the fiddle adds definite character to Angeline the Baker, keeping the dancing tune straddling a line between hoe down and bluegrass.

When the Reivers Call has a dark brooding character which seems to have picked up the feel of a prog rock ballad of old. With a much harder and thumping cadence it still very cleverly keeps its folk roots on full display.
Cara Dillon

In what is almost a perverse juxtaposition, If I Were A Blackbird is one of the simplest tunes from the band.

The song has been around so long it’s almost thought of more like a nursery rhyme, something like Bobby Shafto. As if playing with the listener, Kelly knows this is the sort of song his vocal skill breathes new life into.

It’s a musical treat where you wouldn’t necessarily listen to it because of its familiarity but Kelly’s captivating voice is what draws you in.

The Shining Ship has a fantastic intro, you could easily envision it as the opening soundtrack to some epic film from the Coen Brothers or the like.

Kelly’s voice adds to the haunting quality with the style sounding strongly influenced by far off exotic places. You get a taste of the Far East, the Middle East and even the Aussie Outback.

There is a real manic quality to both Kelly’s vocals and the maelstrom of the musicians backing him, it’s like they are struggling to keep it on the acceptable side of sanity and slowly losing the battle.

This gives way to Chasing Shadows which comes across as a battle of sound with the subtle yet machine gun rattle of Francis on the banjo trying to drag Kelly’s vocals along in what is a very pleasant ballad.

The Close Shave is a highly amusing and bawdy tale of deception which is always a joy to hear. Kelly’s version is sprightly with Shaer adding a lovely thread of frivolity through his whistles.

It’s Shaer who leads proceedings on the following track, Shy Guy’s Serve. There is a strong fusion of the modern and Celtic traditional in this instrumental.

Crash on the Levee comes in with a brooding electronic sound and is more rock than folk. The harder, throbbing beat stands out from the other tracks and is obviously Kelly and TLB stretching their musical muscles.

The new album
The more familiar Kelly returns on the penultimate track, The Keeper. Apart from The Blackbird it’s probably the most traditional sound on the album.

It’s fast-paced and throws everything into the mix to create a real full and fascinating musical picture. You can almost see Kelly with his finger in his ear as he sings amongst the leaves o’ green-oh.

Kelly and TLB take the album out with The Rose which has a distinct flavour of Simon & Garfunkel in the harmonies and softness of the singing.

Kelly and TLB have created an album which is diverse; brings tunes which move across musical boundaries and which has a rich melee of sounds, all of which enhance and enrich the central core of Kelly’s unmistakable vocals without being in any way overshadowed by them.

Pretty Peggy is out now on the Navigator Label distributed by Proper Music. It is available from the band's website and through Amazon and iTunes.

Kelly is touring with the album over the next two months either with the band or as a duo with Francis starting November 15 at Red Lion Folk Club, Vicarage Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham. B14 7LY. The Duo will be supported by Richi Jones. Doors open around 7.15pm with the show at 7.45pm and tickets are £13.20.

Then on November 27 you can see him with TLB at Kingkerswell Parish Church, Newton Abbot, Devon. TQ12 5LD. Doors open 7pm and tickets are £13.20.

There is a fair old journey for the band for the next night's gig on November 28 where they will play Norwich Arts Centre, 51 St. Benedict’s Street, Norwich. NR2 4PG. Show starts 8pm and tickets are £12 or £10 concessions plus £1 online or telephone booking fee.

Then on November 29 the band will be performing at Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regent's Park Road, London. NW1 7AY. Show starts 7.30pm and tickets £14 or £10 for under-26. There is a £2 online booking fee or a £2.50 telephone booking fee. No fees apply if booked in person. To end the month they will play Forest Arts Centre, Old Milton Road, Hampshire. BH25 6DS. The show starts 7.30pm and tickets are £15 or £14 with concessions plus 50p booking fee.

At the start of next month the band can be found at Stamford Arts Centre, 27 St Mary's Street, Stamford, Lincs. PE9 2DL Show kicks off at 8pm and tickets are £16 or £14 concessions plus £1 booking fee. Support will be from Jellyman's Daughter

The following night, December 2 they will be performing at Kings Somborne Village Hall, Recreation Ground,off Romsey Road, King's Somborne, Stockbridge, Hampshire. SO20 6PP. Doors open 7.30pm and tickets are £15 in advance or £17 on the night. Please note ticket payments online are through Paypal although you don't need to have a Paypal account to be able to buy. They can also be bought by cheque then notified via email and if you pay on the night it's cash only.

Their next gig is on December 5 where you can see them at Ropetackle Arts Centre, Little High Street, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, BN43 5EG. The show starts 8pm and tickets are £14 or £12 if you are a friend of the venue. 

Following this on December 6 they will be playing St Lawrence Parish Church, Congleton Road, Biddulph, Stoke-on-Trent. ST8 7RG. Show starts at 7.30pm and tickets are £13.20 including booking fee. On December 7 they will be performing at Greystones, Greystones Road, Sheffield. S11 7BS. Show starts 8pm and tickets are £14.30 including booking fee. The band will again be supported by Jellyman's Daughter. 

Their final gig of the month is Kelly & Francis, on December 15 and at The Ram Club based at Old Cranleighan, Portsmouth Road, Thames Ditton, Surrey. KT7 0HB. It's a Christmas party show, however no ticket information or times were available at time of publication. Check with the website over the coming weeks for updates.

Every effort has been made to ensure all information is correct at time of publishing.Folkall accepts no responsibility for information received in good faith about dates, times or costs which is incorrect or for broken links to websites. Where long journeys are likely it is recommended that you check for updates on the relevant sites before starting out.

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