- Date: 29th November, 2017
- Line-up: Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys with support from The Jellyman's Daughter
- Location: Kennedy Hall, Cecil Sharp House, London
- Website: http://samkelly.org/
- Website: https://www.thejellymansdaughter.com/
- Review By: Gary Smith (LCM)
Sam Kelly and his very talented ensemble the 'Lost Boys' are one of the best live Folk and acoustic bands in the UK. Already festival favourites and the 'young guns' of the folk circuit with their infectious blend of Folk, Americana and Irish favoured music. In Cecil Sharp House the spiritual home of UK Folk, they chose the perfect venue both to showcase their music and to release their excellent new highly acclaimed second studio album 'Pretty Peggy'. Don't be too surprised if they are nominated for best band at next year's BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. The 'Lost Boys' boasts an all-star cast of Jamie Francis (The Changing Room, Stark), Graham Coe (Jellyman's Daughter), Toby Shaer (Seth Lakeman, Carousel), Ciaran Algar (Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar), Achie Churchill-Moss (MMR) and Evan Carson (The Willows, The Changing Room, Ange Hardy).
Opening the night were a wonderful Americana/Folk duo from Edinburgh called The Jellyman's Daughter, which I had the great pleasure of first meeting at the Harrison in Kings Cross a few years ago. Emily Kelly (acoustic guitar/vocals) and Graham Coe (cello/mandolin/vocals) have certainly gone from strength to strength since our last meeting, with their fusion of bluegrass, post-rock, folk and the good kind of pop. Hopefully in the Spring of next year they will be releasing their new second studio album called 'Dead Reckoning', via a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.
Performing around a retro bi-directional condenser microphone they played a set of favourites from their 2014 self titled debut release and also a taster of songs from the new album. I really enjoyed their interweaving vocal harmonies, which were complimented by a very interesting mix of cello and acoustic guitar. Graham's cello providing a very catchy percussive back-beat. Stylistically their set reminded me of Lewis & Leigh.
Graham was also one of the busiest people in the night, as he is also part of the very talented Lost Boys.
After a short intermission Sam and The Lost Boys exploded onto the stage with the very catchy high tempo traditional whaling shanty the 'Greenland Whale' sometimes know as 'The Whale Catchers' or 'The Twenty Third of March'. It's a real toe-tapper with a great hooks and sing-a-long chorus.
Sam's set then followed quite faithfully the new album in order. The love interest of the traditional song 'The Bony Lass of Fyvie' gives the album it's name, 'Pretty Peggy'. On the album the band are joined on the track by the wonderful Cara Dillion who provides some of the vocals which perfect complements Sam and the band. "Unfortunately" said Sam "Cara can't be here tonight, as she is no longer with us....that sounds really bad......I mean she is not with our band.....she currently on her tour", Sam deputised perfectly singing both parts. Next up was 'Angeline The Baker' (Roud 1834) was written by Stephen Foster for the Christy Minstrels and first published in 1850. The original Appalachian tune laments the loss of a female slave sent away by her owners. 'When The Reivers Call' is a song written by Jamie Francis and was inspired by the Scottish/English border 'reiving' in the middle ages. The terms comes from the Scots and Northern English dialect and means to go on a cross border plundering raid. "Basically people would come over the border to steal your money and PlayStations. As Jamie is from Cumbria, it's basically a song about his childhood" Sam joked.
The Irish traditional love song with the genders swapped 'If I Were A Blackbird' received a new arrangement from Sam and Chris Woods. Sam related learning this one from his grandfather who started his love of folk music. We return to a nautical theme for 'The Shining Ship', a dark tale in which a lady's lover long lost at sea, returns to her and persuades her to come away with him to a distant land. After boarding the ship, in the true traditions of folk music, she quickly realizes not all is as it seems......[spolier alert] One of the varients of this traditional song is called 'The Demon Ship'. The personal and tender 'Chasing Shadows' written by Sam, is a song for a friend and for anyone going through a tough time.
There is a case of the same mistaken identity as The Kinks 'Lola' in the next song 'The Close Shave', a very clever and funny variation on the traditional song 'Barrack Street'. It tells the unfortunate tale of gold miners in the a New Zealand town, gross deception, heavy drinking, robbery and a never ending cycle. A couple of tunes next 'Josh's Slip' by Toby and 'Rookery Lane' by Ciaran which form the 'Shy Guy's Serve' set.
It's always great to see a cover of the now Nobel prize winning singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in the set. This time it was 'Crash On The Levee' their version of the lesser known song, 'Down In The Flood (Crash On The Levee)'. 'The Keeper' is always an interesting choice to cover. It is a tradition song about a gamekeeper chasing and catching deer, but listen to it closely and it's like a 'Carry On' version of a folk song, full of double meaning and euphemisms. The song is always a fantastic live favourite with it's band call and audience response. The excellent main set finished with a song called 'The Rose' which was translated from the French song 'Le Beau Rosier'. First heard when Sam played mandolin for Belgian band 'Naragonia' in 2016 and fell in love with the song.
For the encore Sam and the band played another firm favourite from their self titled debut album the uptempo 'Jolly Waggoners', followed by the rousing and high energy Irish tune 'Banish Misfortune'. It had the audience on their feet and clapping along......and ended with a well deserved standing ovation.
A fantastic evening of music in the company of some of the UK's finest young folk musicians. Catch them on tour if you can!