It must be nearly Harvest Festival time, mustn't it? At Christ Church Downend, just next to the altar, is an offering of food. A collection of gifts. A cornucopia. A bounty. This evening, just in front of that altar, is SAM CARTER. Delivering gifts, laying out an overflowing cornucopia, bringing us his bounty of glorious songs and delicate melodies.
Just after the third song of the evening a voice, a throaty, possibly slightly drunken voice, shouts "Yes, mate!". It's a simple, heartfelt affirmation, a phrase that says all that you need to know about Sam Carter this evening. Unequivocally "yes". Yes to the songs. Yes to the guitar playing. Just..."yes".
The song that gave rise to that was She Brings Me Home. A massive slice of joy from Sam's new(ish) album Home Waters. He calls it "a good, old fashioned love song" and he’s not wrong. Just as delightfully happy is Our Kind of Harmony from How the City Sings. It's simply such a beautiful song about singing and love and togetherness. These are songs that bring an instant smile to your face, an extra tap to your toes. They are songs to fall in love to.
The songs are one thing but Sam is, almost certainly, the very best folk guitarist in the country. Silvery dewdrops cascade from his fret board, leaving even those that know one end of a capo from the other (or, indeed, where to put one) grinning behind their hands. Can you imagine being able to play like that? Even a little bit like that? It's astonishing. He often cites Nic Jones as an influence but even he wasn't as good as this, was he? Sam's version of Oh Dear, Rue the Day is certainly a match for Jones'.
So that cornucopia then? Amazing guitar playing, beautiful love songs and Sam Carter is not even half done. There's some politics too. From the Sweet Liberties project comes Dark Days. A proper Dickensian, street stalker of a song. Wearing a battered coat and a sinister leer, taking pot shots at these nasty political times it's joined by Fly the Flag. As anti-Br*xit a song as you're likely to hear, more devastated than outright furious. It goes without saying that the throaty cheering was back again. Beneath his mild mannered exterior a seriously annoyed, politically aware beast lurks.
Hold Back The Storm tackles the climate crisis with the heartbroken yearning of the deeply wounded while Dreams are Made of Money still sounds like a stone-cold classic of modern songwriting. In all honesty every single song feels special. As he says "every true story told turns lead into gold". Everything could be met with a lusty "yes".
Equally deserving of relentless positivity was a short opening set from FLO PARKER BOMBOSCH. Rumour has it that this was her first proper set ever, but you'd never know. She mixes superbly chosen covers (Jason Isbell, The Frames) with her own songs... Something That Scares Me is a particular highpoint... and there were times when it felt as though we'd slipped through some sort of 90s indie wormhole. Very welcome echoes of the brilliant Juliana Hatfield rather than straight-up folk but very fine for all of that. Her voice is goosebumps inducing, the songs clever and honest.
All in all an amazing evening of gifts and blessing. Oh "yes".
Words: Gavin McNamara
Photo: Barry Savell