Album Review

Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys – The Wishing Tree: Album Review

Sam Kelly breaks the four year(!) wait for a new album.

Release date: 27th August 2021

Label: Pure Records

Format: CD / Digital

Oh, how we’ve waited for some new music from Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys. Back in 2018, when the band played Cropredy, I recall Sam saying some new music was done. Perhaps he was just being polite. Folk songs with a popular infusion are back and delivered with a disturbingly abnormal amount of talent from this sprightly band. It’s one that’s slightly trimmed for 2021 without the (literally) huge presence of Ciaran Algar.

With a handful of trad. arr. numbers peppered amongst the set, the curtain is raised with a not unexpected fearsome blast. The opening strains of Bluebird, see the distinctive percussive tones pouring from Jamie Francis’ tumbling banjo. They drive a story of how it’s better to fall than to never leave the ground, and induce that warm feeling and realisation (again) that this is the reason we love folk music. It even follows on from where progeisters Marillion have gone before. Their song from 1995, Out Of This World, bears a similar Donald Campbell / Bluebird / Coniston connection and inspiration. Paired with Tinker’s Poteen, the first nod to traditional song, it’s a lethal combo. Certain to have even the most subdued of folk festival crowds nodding their heads.

While we’re talking trad, See That My Grave Is Kept Clean isn’t the first arrangement that’s much more stark. It includes an unusual and slightly discordant part mid song as the lengthy and tragic tale of young Molly on Banks Of Sweet Dundee pans out in a restrained and sombre manner. Proof too that while there aren’t many who could work up a storm and folk-rock out like these young gentlemen, they also have it in their armoury to don the cloak of sensitivity and reverence. One that also sees Graham Coe’s deep cello bringing the atmosphere to the fore.

Talking of which, the lament Mo Ghile Mear (My Gallant Hero/Lad or thereabouts) takes the plaudits for a haunting Irish ballad that can compete with Jim Kerr singing Belfast Child and hitting #1. While the stock in trade banjo fury does the trick on The wishing Tree, this is an unexpected treasure. In concert? Maybe one that we can listen to as we leave, a bit like the Theme From Harry’s Game did the job for U2. A fascinating background too which is well worth a google…

The influence of the Changeable Heart collaboration with Ruth Notman from 2019 is evident with some excellent songwriting given the Lost Boys treatment. The title track, Omens and Chalk Lines could easily fit on that album and the partnership seems to have opened up a few musical doors.

Toby Shaer’s adventures with the Cara Dillon camp might contribute to the Celtic flavour on Maria, the Lakeman inspired folk fire on the darker sound of Steal Fire is another highlight. How may of you can hear Seth’s How Much in this one? The dynamics adding the swing and aggression they’ve previously explored on Crash On The Levee and Little Sadie. Again there’s a honking solo while the Lost Boys’ bluesy fire gest thrown into the mix on Nature’s Law.

Pure Records have a little treasure on their books here. Twelve tracks of musical mastery that flit between stirring hoedowns and introspective moods. The product of a constantly impressive six young men, hey – and we even managed to mention Marillion (twice…)

Here’s Guiding Light from the album:

Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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