Sam Carter – The Folk House, Bristol

Sunday 23rd September, 2018

I’ve gone on about how much I love the Folk House loads of times before, but I will reiterate that any gig venue that sells tea, cake, is warm, welcoming and has crystal clear sound is a winner in my book. Tonight I got to share it with Tom for the first time who enjoyed the local beers as well as an Anzac biscuit.

Folk as a genre is one I’ve come to love for many of the reasons I love the Folk House. The people are warm and welcoming, there is usually tea and cake involved somewhere, and it is an inclusive music. All you need to play is a decent voice and a cheap acoustic guitar. There are many, many great women in folk. There is almost always a sing a long, where you are expected, nay encouraged to join in. Even if, like me, you cannot sing.

My flirtation with folk began with False Lights, of whom Sam Carter is a founding member. BBC 6 Music, via the Mark Radcliffe folk show recording at the 6 Music Festival in Bristol was were it started. The germ of the seed that became 40 gigs was formed there too, but that’s another tale. One that did lead me to seeing and loving False Lights last year as part of 40 gigs. They were one of the undoubted highlights of the whole thing. Jim and Sam are both solo artists, as well as being in the band, and I’ve wanted to see them both on their own but the timing has never fallen right. It did tonight and so I grabbed the chance to see Sam on his own.

Susie Dobson provided excellent support with her ukulele and lovely voice. She was backed by Ant on guitar just to fill out the sound a little, which worked perfectly. Standout song was one inspired by commuter love tales, telling the story of red dungarees girl and the boy in the scarf. I need to know what happens next, Susie, so can you write a sequel? Please.

Sam made a cracking start with 2 new songs, both of which were brilliant. Brexit, cast as an adrift ship with its flag flying, but for what? was a clever political statement. It also showed off what Sam is so good at (other than being an astonishing guitarist), using the tradition and historical narrative of folk to tell modern stories. Only someone who knows, loves and understands their genre so well can do that. Folk music has always been full of darkness, hangings, murders, betrayals, so Dark Days (another of Sam’s own songs) fitted perfectly. There is political anger and impotence in some of the songs, Grenfell, Brexit, the Tories, all got airings. As did love songs for friends weddings, sleep, loving, longing and break ups. All of life in other words. In a dozen or so songs. In In Waves, the song inspired by a scientific book about sleep, Sam showed off that virtuoso guitar playing. It was beautiful, the wave patterns he was playing mirroring the lyrics and theme.

From The South Bank to Soho made me well up. Some songs hit closer to home than you want them to. We Never Made It To The Lakes may be “the most middle class break up song of all time” (until someone writes one about quinoa) but the tenderness and love behind the sadness were very sweet. Missing not what you had, but what you could have had, it’s a particular kind of pain.

Sam is a brilliant guitar player and a great songwriter. Buy his albums, and False Lights ones. Go see him play live if you can.




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