Review: Sam Kelly and the Lost Boys at Sidmouth Folk Festival

Sam Kelly (left) and Ciaran Algar at the Ham Marquee. Picture: Paul Strange

Sam Kelly (left) and Ciaran Algar at the Ham Marquee. Picture: Paul Strange - Credit: Archant

Bristol-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sam Kelly has been one to watch for some years.

Sam Kelly with the Lost Boys at the Ham marquee. Picture: Paul Strange

Sam Kelly with the Lost Boys at the Ham marquee. Picture: Paul Strange - Credit: Archant

A BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner, his two Sidmouth appearances - a boisterous Bulverton show the previous night followed by a Wednesday lunch-time headlining slot at the Ham Marquee - were part of a large UK tour, and clearly showed he's on the ascendant.

That's because his material - a strong mix of traditional music and contemporary originals - has youthful crossover appeal, especially when his talented band The Lost Boys give it the hammer.

But before the ensemble becomes an overblown folk-rock band, Kelly will calm things down with a gentle song, allowing his traditional roots to shine through.

This astute pacing was apparent during the Ham show, along with Kelly's assured stagecraft featuring a nice line in stage patter, full of self-deprecating humour.

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Picking up material from his solo album, The Lost Boys, and Sam Kelly and The Lost Boys' Pretty Peggy, the band launched into a rousing version of the traditional The King's Shilling, before blasting into The Bonny Lass of Fyvie, complete with its singalong Pretty Peggy refrain.

From the start, Kelly (vocals, guitar) was in fine fettle, commanding The Lost Boys - Jamie Francis (banjo), Evan Carson (percussion), Archie Churchill-Moss (melodeon), Toby Shaer (woodwind), Ciaran Algar (fiddle, tenor guitar) and Graham Coe (cello) - with a raised eyebrow or nod of his head.

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As the show progressed, the band settled into a comfortable groove, becoming bluesy for the murder ballad, Little Sadie, more delicate for Angeline The Baker (a sad story about unrequited love between two slaves) and turning up the heat for Kelly's catchy Spokes, a song that reminds us not to overlook good things and the good people around us.

There was a lovely touch at the end of a confident and memorable set. Rather than tear into a rip-roarer, Kelly encored with a poignant ballad I'll Give You My Voice, a song about his inspirational grandfather who played melodeon and sang with a delicate vocal. You sensed that however popular he may become in the future, Kelly will never forget his folk roots.


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