September 25, 2023

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Video Premiere: Serious Sam Barrett – The Waggoner (+ Song of the Day)

Following on from his highly acclaimed 2019 album Where the White Roses Grow, Yorkshire’s rising folk star Serious Sam Barrett returns next month (17 September) with his new album, The Seeds of Love. Those lucky enough to own a copy of the book may recognise the album title as the British folk anthology by Stephen Sedley, which was published in 1967 in association with the English Folk Dance & Song Society. It’s not the easiest book to get hold of today, as often reflected in the price. Luckily for him (and us), Sam was given a copy of the book by his wife, which now forms the focus of his new album.

“I was immediately taken with how beautiful the book was and a large part of this record is comprised of songs from the book,” explains Sam. “In a lot of cases, I was new to the songs and I simply read the verses from the page and waited for a melody to come to me that I thought fitted the words. For some, I already knew the song and decided to play it straight with the traditional melody. For some time I’ve wanted to make a record with a very traditional feel, a ‘proper folk record’, and this book really helped that along. One way or another all the songs on this record are songs of love, be it tragic, misguided, unrequited or true.”

Taken from the album, we have the pleasure of sharing his video for The Waggoner, a Tyneside ballad of the Great Northern Coalfield. Johnny Handle sang a version of the song on the Topic Records compilation album Along The Coaly Tyne from 1968. Sam takes his version from the text of Come All Ye Bold Miners: Ballads And Songs Of The Coalfields compiled by A.L. Lloyd and a final verse from Bob Davenport.

“I love the way waggoners always seem to appear as fun-loving, hardy, roguish types in these songs. ‘The Jolly Waggoner’ as sung by The Watersons describes him drinking with the landlords of the inns he delivers to and generally enjoying an adventurous life. This song seems to be sung from the perspective of an admiring lover who seemingly can’t get enough of his rugged charms and glorious imperfections. I’m pretty sure this song relates to the waggoners who pushed carts full of coal in mines rather than the beer delivering type as described in the Watersons song.  In The Seeds of Love book published by EFDSS, the song is credited as coming from the text in A.L. Lloyd’s Come All Ye Bold Miners, with Bob Davenport being credited for the final verse. The tune I use is a melody I came up with but it’s pretty faithful. The guitar-playing and the melody are heavily influenced by Dick Gaughan on this one and in particular his arrangement of ‘Glenlogie’.”

Sam’s version has a touch of northern grit which, combined with some beautiful guitar fingerwork, makes for a great modern rendition that also has a raw authenticity that’s a delight to hear in an age where it can be hard to come by. In the album notes, he says: “I’ve had some of the most incredible experiences listening to people sing in folk clubs and I was lucky enough to have been brought up in the magical world that is the Yorkshire folk club scene. I hope in some way this record brings to life the wonder I have felt listening to people sing traditional songs in a raw, warts and all style.”

That it does, and we’re really looking forward to sharing more from the album soon. The Waggoner is also our Song of the Day.

Like his previous release, The Seeds of Love was recorded at The Stationhouse in Leeds with producer/engineer James Atkinson in between periods of Covid lockdown. “It’s been a really tough time in a lot of ways but I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my music and work hard on my songs,” he says. “In a way I’ve been lucky to have some space to really make the record I wanted to make without it feeling rushed or having to fit it round gigs and touring.”

Sam is on a joint tour with The Burner Band…

Fri 17 Sept – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds (album launch gig)
Sat 18 Sept – The Swan, Addingham
Fri 24 Sept – Paradise Tap N Taco, Harrogate
Fri 1 Oct – Dorothy Pax, Sheffield
Sat 2 Oct – What’s Cookin’, London
Sun 3 Oct – Beak Brewery HQ, Lewes
Fri 8 Oct – Village Hall, Terrington (LIAMS Club)
Sat 9 Oct – Constitutional Club, Farsley
Fri 15 Oct – Labour Rooms, Otley

More here:

Photo Credit: Reece Leung