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Sam Sweeney
Escape That

Hudson Records
Review by Chris Nickson


Over the last 15 years, Sweeney has established a reputation as one of the go-to fiddle players in English folk, as his stints with Bellowhead and the Fay Hield Band testify. But with Escape That he’s definitely spreading his wings, with 11 tracks culled from 20 pieces of music he created on synth and guitar (but apparently not violin). As he developed the tracks, anything that seemed like a hook was kept and everything else tossed away, then the hooks were joined together. The result is definitely folk pop, and Sweeney proclaims it loudly on the opening cut “Ruby.”

Listen "Pink Steps" (excerpt)

It's an ambitious idea, especially where other instruments tend to be consigned to a supporting role and the fiddle takes the lead, which is generally the case. At times other voices – actually a human voice – would be welcome upfront, and some tracks really do beg for words to fill out and complete them. Sometimes, though, the instrumental pile-on of hooks works spectacularly well, as with “Pink Steps.” The repeated fiddle line is memorable, but it’s the rising bassline that’s the grabber. It’s a track the builds until it has a Velcro quality that binds it very firmly to the brain.

Listen "Deep Water Shallow (End)" (excerpt)

“Deep Water Shallow (End)” is equally addictive, with its bell-like keyboards ringing in before the fiddle plays a series of very memorable melodies. The album closes with the more reflective “Don’t Worry, Trains,” with an aching melody that spreads its petals to become something more cinematic – but again a piece that would have benefited from the extra texture of a voice, even a wordless one.

It's an excellent first step. Sweeney has an ear for a catchy melody and the arrangements are good. Perhaps next time he’ll take more chances and go more electric (including his own playing). Throw off all those folk shackles, perhaps, and dive in the deep water deep (end).

Find the artist online.

A little bonus:
Live at Woodchester Mansion, 2021

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