I was honoured to be invited by Janis Ian to take part in her “Better Times” project recently. It’s a project she began in lockdown, centred on a new song she’s written, “Better Times Will Come”.
Head to the Better Times Project to watch my video performance of the song, read more about the project, and to hear lots of great versions by some amazing musicians. There’s a really broad range of people involved, with well-established artists such as Eric Bibb, Aoife Scott, and Sam Bush, alongside artists who you may not have heard before.
Here’s what Janis has to say about the project:
“It’s an illustration of the many ways one song can be used, and a reminder that you don’t have to be a professional to make art. Every version here was done from lockdown and quarantine, with birds, dogs, children in the background. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we enjoy it, give voice to it, and remember that someday, better times will come.”
From Janis: “George’s version amplifies on my original three chords, lending certain lines a darkness they might not have otherwise, and he manages to convey simplicity and complexity at the same time – one of the hardest things for an artist to do.”
Thank you to Adrian Jones for his review of my new album in Folk London magazine. You can get hold of the latest issue here. It’s a good read, not just for people who live in the London area but also if you’re after album reviews and (online) gig listings – and in this month’s edition, some lockdown-themed adaptations of folk songs.
Here’s the full review:
George Sansome George Sansome Grimdon Records GRICD002
George has just celebrated a decade as guitarist with the irrepressible trio Granny’s Attic. Still in his early 20s, here he offers his first album, a collection of 10 carefully chosen traditional songs.
Other than a low double-bass growl added to the opening, all tracks are George playing and singing solo. His guitar is skilful, and it can seem at times there are more musicians in the mix. Sometimes it drives and dances with the vocals, as in the story of pirate evasion on The Bold Princess Royal, or of the drink-preferring husband of Jovial Cutler. Other times he creates a sustained ringing tonality that lapped around my ears on tracks like Bonaparte’s Departure For St Helena and The Rebel Soldier (check out the exquisite opening harp-like tones).
His guitar work is at its most beautiful on Bold Fisherman, the reflective centre of this release, which has understandably been chosen as the album’s single. All the other stories involve human plight of some kind; there is a spiritual surrendering, “a chance meeting leading to a deeper connection”. Repeated listening will pull you down to its inner meaning.
His vocal tone is an assured tenor, and he has a gentleness that lets him sing both for male and female protagonists. He conveys the proud defiance of Polly Parker over her poverty and prospects in Collier Lass (which coincidentally resonates with our Covid praise for essential workers: “if it weren’t for our labour, in wretched starvation your days you would pass”). He becomes the girl resigned to a single life in When Shall I Get Married?, and the repentant criminal who stole for love aching to escape the penal colony in Australia. At all times the songs are rhythmic and alive, bouncing over changes in meter if needed to keep the music flowing.
The pared-back, uncluttered and clean production from the Radio 2 Folk award-winning producer Ben Walker brings George right into the room, performing just for you. The result is a lovely assembly of engaging ballads, mainly intimate, sometimes rousing, of past characters brought back to life by George’s fine blend of storytelling with quality musicianship.
The latest issue (July/August) of RnR magazine features a nice review of my debut album – thanks to Ian Croft and RnR for the review. Ian really puts his finger on what I was trying to do when putting my album together, calling it “an unhurried album where the listener can concentrate on every word, and melodies are uniformly strong”. See below for the full review.
RnR is a great magazine covering folk, roots, rock, world and blues music, including great interviews, features and reviews. Get hold of the latest issue here.
George Sansome * * * * (Grimdon)
Having been ten years as guitarist and singer in the excellent Granny’s Attic, George Sansome has embarked upon a parallel solo career and this is his self-titled debut album. It’s a set of ten traditional songs—some well known, others less so—sung and played by George, in a crisp production by Ben Walker that keeps the sound clean and uncluttered. Opening track ‘Collier Lass’ adds double bass from Tom Bailey but otherwise George, his voice and guitar, appear in the unadorned fashion that you’d see on stage.
George has a maturing voice, full of musicality, and a skilful guitar technique, influenced by Nic Jones and others. A good choice of songs includes transportation ballad, ‘Australia’, which is taken at a stately pace, appropriate to the story. This fits well with an unhurried album where the listener can concentrate on every word, and melodies are uniformly strong.
Beyond that, ‘Bonaparte’s Departure For St. Helena’ was learned from a live recording by Nic Jones, and ‘Jovial Cutler’ is a little more upbeat, relating some of the perils of too much drinking. George Sansome is a fine example of traditional material sung and played well—a very promising debut.
Thank you to David Kidman and Living Tradition for a lovely review of my new album. It’ll be in issue 135 of the magazine (available in August) but you can also read the full review below.
Living Tradition is always a good read, with interesting articles and great interviews. You can get hold of the latest issue here.
Review GEORGE SANSOME Grimdon Records GRICD002
The abundantly youthful yet enviably mature Granny’s Attic has already chalked up a whole decade, their dynamic “must-see” status never compromised. Now George is the trio’s second member to branch out with a solo album, and it exceeds even the greatest expectations. First to note, it’s resolutely, genuinely solo (apart from Tom Bailey’s double bass on the first track). For, much as I welcome, applaud and appreciate sympathetic instrumentation and imaginative or unusual approaches to traditional song, there’s still so much to be said for unfussy, concentrated back-to-basics unadorned performance, especially where (as here) the standard of musicianship and interpretation is both exceptional and compelling, while Ben Walker’s production fully reflects these qualities.
As a singer, George is naturally expressive and sensitive, with a distinctive presence that nevertheless displays both restraint and true tenderness. His supporting guitar work is precisely that – and yet so much more than that implies, being supremely skilled, stylish, nimble and highly musical. As just one instance, Bonaparte’s Departure For St. Helena sports a lyrical instrumental section that genuinely enhances the song’s progress (as opposed to being a convenient excuse for showy pyrotechnics or merely resting the voice). And as far as choice of material goes, George’s selection is both intelligent and well-considered, always revealing new insights and involving the listener fully in the narrative.
Not for some time have I encountered a no-frills voice-and-guitar offering so consistently rewarding, so intensely satisfying on all counts. George’s album is truly masterly, and it’s one which I can envisage becoming regarded as a benchmark, perhaps even to be invoked in the same breath as the classic Nic Jones or Martin Carthy albums which to this day continue to influence and inspire today’s interpreters of traditional song.
At the end of 2019, I recorded a couple of live performances of songs from my debut album. The second video, “Australia”, is out now!
The video was beautifully shot by Maria Alzamora and Lewis Harris did a great job on the audio.
“Australia” is a song of convict transportation, and comes from the singing of Bob Hart (1892-1978) from Snape, Suffolk, as recorded by Tony Engle in September 1973.
It has its origins in the earlier song Virginny, which dates to the 18th century (pre-American Independence) when British convicts were transported to Virginia. After the American Revolutionary War, the British government began to ship convicts to Australia instead, with over 160,000 convicts transported across an 80 year period. Even the convicts who hadn’t been transported for life – perhaps like this song’s narrator – rarely made it back to Britain; few of those with seven or fourteen year sentences could afford the return fare.
Here’s the video (see below to listen to the song on Spotify):
Today (3rd July) is also Bandcamp Friday – Bandcamp are waiving all their fees in support of artists.
I’ve got a few different items on my Bandcamp: you can get hold of a limited edition album art print by Mars West, a digital single – and the album is available on CD/download.
As well as supporting artists you already know and love, today is a great chance to discover some new music – so take a chance and buy something you’ve not heard before!
You can now stream it via all the usual platforms – including Spotify – and you can download/stream via my Bandcamp too. Go ahead and add it to your playlists/share it with your friends and family – I hope you enjoy it! If you prefer CDs you can also get hold of those through Bandcamp, or direct from me here.
I’m doing a livestream album launch tonight (26th June), which will feature some songs from the new album as well as a couple of songs from livestream favourites Blue Nudes. There’ll also be some surprise special guests: I’ll be featuring some live performances from a few amazing folk musicians from across the country. Tune in via my Facebook page at 7.30pm (more info here).
Today also sees the launch of a new live video of “Australia” from the new album, which is premiering over on Folk Radio. It’s beautifully shot by Maria Alzamora with audio by Lewis Harris – head here to give it a watch!
Thanks so much to everyone who pre-ordered the album and who helped in any way towards making it! I really appreciate all your support and encouragement.
Hope you enjoy the album – feel free to get in touch and let me know what you think of it. Hopefully see you at the album launch tonight!
Thanks to Mike Davies and the lovely people at Folk Radio for publishing a review of my debut album!
Here’s a quote from the review:
“While some of his contemporaries seek to reinvent and remodel traditional folk songs, while yet remaining true to their essence, Sansome proves that addressing their bare-bones, as they would have been sung back in the day, can be no less an inspiring and exhilarating experience.”
Thanks to Tim Cumming and Songlines for a great 4-star review of my upcoming solo album! See below for the review (transcription below image), or get hold of the full issue of this month’s magazine here.
George Sansome George Sansome Grimdon Records (44 mins) * * * * Granny’s Attic guitarist and singer steps out on his own
One third of BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award nominees Granny’s Attic, Sansome releases his solo debut. This self-titled album is a set of traditional songs produced by Ben Walker and beautifully performed by Sansome.
The songs are captured up-close and personal — Sansome’s high level of performance means that as a listener you can all but climb inside them and roam around, taking on their weights and measures. It opens with ‘Collier Lass’, a vivid depiction of hard labour and hardier spirit; its lines ‘for we would provide you with life’s greatest blessing/so do not despise a poor collier lass’ will find a strong echo in the hailing of frontline workers in the current pandemic. ‘The Bold Princess Royal’ is a classic seafaring adventure, our bold heroes fighting off French privateers in a big, popular song handled by everyone from Walter Pardon to Bob Copper.
Other choices are less familiar, but no less absorbing, such as the seduction song ‘Gown Of Green’, wherein a lone mother with babe in arms is reunited with her wounded soldier lover, or ‘The Bleaches So Green’, a more gimlet-eyed take on love, marriage and seduction. As with many a classic folk ballad, all of life — good, bad, and outrageous — can be found herein.
Thanks to everyone who tuned in to the charity livestream requests gig on Wednesday 10th June, and an especially big thank you to those people who generously donated via the link. Your contributions came to an amazing £410!
Thanks to your generosity I was able to send a £205 donation to Naz and Matt Foundation, and a £205 donation to African Rainbow Family. These are both brilliant charities, and this money will help them continue the vital work they are doing.
You can catch up on the livestream here, and if you’d like to donate you can do so via the charities’ websites (above), or via my PayPal payment link (please write “Charity Donation” in the message box).
The gig was really fun – a special thank you to people who requested songs! I was joined at various points individually by Edie and Lucy from Blue Nudes, who are just as great together as they are individually. Here’s their Bandcamp.
Next gig is the virtual album launch (via Facebook) on Friday 26th June, which will feature some more special guests!