St. Martin’s church in Stoney Middleton was Sam Sweeney’s favourite practice room during the three years he has spent living in the Peak District. After winning the 2020 Bright Young Folk Readers’ Choice Award with Unearth Repeat, he recently came back to this 15th century building to record his new release Solo under the guidance of long time collaborator Andy Bell, the first of a series of EPs he will release with all the members of his band.
The material he has chosen for this work is solely traditional, all tunes from 17th and 18th century collections he has come across or rediscovered whilst in lockdown, and yet his personal touch is evident from the first notes of the opening track Untitled Waltz #1 / Tweedside, a set of two tunes respectively from Thomas Wrigley’s collection of 1755 and Geoghegan’s Compleat Tutor for the Pastoral Bagpipes of 1745.
Enhanced by the exquisite acoustics of the venue, Sweeney’s trademark sensitive and highly expressive playing shines throughout this EP and gets to the heart of the tunes in its delicate and distinctive way. Standout examples of his ability to grasp and reveal the soul of the pieces are the haunting rendition of The Old Captain, a melancholic tune from a collection by John Johnson published in 1740, or the foot-tapping Booth Hornpipe taken from the 1657 edition of Playford’s Dancing Master.
The traditional and equally personal approach to ancient material he has always adopted in his solo albums, the well-pondered use of ornaments and variations and the ability to paint all the different colours of the English landscapes with his fiddle all contribute to another milestone of folk music. Another step in the right direction for the current wave of the English folk revival.Michele Mele
Released digitally by Hudson Records on 4 February 2022. Recorded by Andy Bell at St. Martin’s Church, Stoney Middleton.
1. Untitled Waltz #1 / Tweedside
2. Cuckoo’s Nest / Old Oxford
3. Untitled Waltz #2
4. The Four Seasons
5. The Old Captain
6. Old Ways Best / Booth’s Hornpipe