Sam’s hymn to his home

Sam Carter.  Picture: Haarala Hamilton
Sam Carter. Picture: Haarala Hamilton

REVIEW: The Southsea Alternative Choir, Wedgewood Rooms

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It was only after starting to write the songs for his latest album that Sam Carter realised he was hymning his home of the past decade.

The resulting album, How The City Sings, is the folk singer-songwriter’s very personal take on London.

It ranges from affectingly intimate to brimming with righteous rage.

‘I’ve lived here for 10 years now,’ says Sam.

‘I’m as much in the mindset of being a Londoner as anyone ever gets, which is not much, I guess.

‘It’s quite an anonymous place in some way.

‘You have a sense in which it never feels like home, you make your own enclave and live there.

‘It’s about my last 10 years and all the things that have happened, and also I’ve been thinking that I won’t be here much longer as it makes sense for me to move out.

‘It’s that sense of wanting to make some closure and being a songwriter, I do that through music.

‘It was a thread that I only realised was running through the songs after I’d finished writing them, so I realised, ah, okay, so this is what I’m on about!

‘In a way it was a retrospective decision to have the album about that.

‘Then when I got that idea I wrote a few more songs that fitted with that theme and the title track was the last one that came together.’

‘It’s about London, but it’s not really the Rough Guide, it’s a bit more personal than that.’

Sam was named Best Newcomer at the 2010 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and has followed his muse all over the world.

He has worked with musicians in south Asia and Africa, backed Richard Thompson and taken part in the all-star tribute tour The Lady: A Homage To Sandy Denny.

The new album was recorded old school-style – live, straight to tape, with a band that included jazz pianist Neil Fowley and award-winning violinist Sam Sweeney.

He says: ‘It is a great band and it’s almost a bit of a cliche, but it’s been a dream to do something with a band like this for a long time.

‘Neil’s kind of like the most famous pianist no-one’s ever heard of because he’s played on all of Adele’s stuff.

‘He’s probably the most played pianist in the world at the moment.

‘He’s fantastic and a spontaneous and intuitive musician as a lot of the best jazz musicians tend to be, and Sam is obviously in Bellowhead and what he does is pretty amazing.’

And they had a ball in the studio.

‘They way we did it, we recorded live all together at once, so you can’t keep doing endless takes and edits.

‘It gets you in a frame of mind to nail the performances, and it’s actually faster than doing it with digital, I find.

‘The endless tinkering isn’t an option.

‘It’s more than a sound, it’s a way of working with tape, that makes it sound more spontaneous and less polished and that’s what I wanted to get.’