Sam Sweeney is a veteran of the mighty Bellowhead’s domination of British folk for ten years, artistic director of the National Folk Youth Ensemble, founder member of the acclaimed instrumental trio Leveret, and a superb instrumentalist at the forefront of the revival in English traditional music
Last September Sam released his first solo album, The Unfinished Violin, an expansion and development of his acclaimed live show, Sam Sweeney’s Fiddle: Made In The Great War, which toured to great acclaim from 2014 to last year.
The show centred on a fiddle the 19-year-old Sweeney came across in violin maker Roger Claridge’s shop in Oxford, made but not assembled by one Richard S Howard of Harehills, Leeds, in 1915. Claridge had come by it at auction, in pieces, in an old manila envelope, and put it together and put it on sale. It’s the instrument Sweeney has used for numerous albums and countless gigs, and in time he set about digging into its history, and uncovered the fateful tale of Richard Howard, a music hall performer called up in 1916 to the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment to fight and lose his life in the Battle of Messines on 7th June 1917.
Appearing alongside Sweeney on the album are Rob Harbron, guitarist Jack Rutter, pianist Becky Price, double bassist Ben Nicholls and a brass and string section. It’s apt that the last recording sessions were at erstwhile Island Record stablemates Fairport Convention’s studio in Oxfordshire, underlining the label’s rich history in supporting British folk. Sam signed to the label following an appearance on BBC Radio 4, to talk about Made In The Great War. Island Records subsequently invited Sam to create an album of the kind of music Richard Howard’s violin would have played had it been assembled at the time of its making. ‘I said, give me a few days to think about it, because I really didn’t want to create a jingoistic, patriotic album,’ he says, ‘but after some research, it was very clear that there would be loads of great tunes, and great stories.’
Alongside Bellowhead duties, Sweeney has also released two fine albums with Hannah James, appeared on albums and stages with the likes of Eliza Carthy, Fay Hield and Sam Carter, been a part of the acclaimed Full English project, won the 2015 BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Musician of the Year, and since 2014 has toured and recorded with Rob Harbron and Andy Cutting as Leveret.
Click here for information about the pre-concert talk - 7 - 7.30pm
Sam Sweeney is supported by PRS Foundation’s Open