“The fiddler with the Midas touch… an English equivalent of the great Irish fiddle player Martin Hayes. ****”
— The Guardian
“Sweeney’s playing is unearthly at times... an outstanding and deeply moving experience. ***** ”
“One of the defining English fiddle players of his generation”
— Mark Radcliffe, BBC Radio 2
After embarking on a solo career in 2018 and releasing two hugely acclaimed albums, The Unfinished Violin and Unearth Repeat, Sam returns with a third solo album in October 2022, Escape That.
Sam is one of England’s finest traditional musicians, however Escape That is his first entirely self-composed record. It ties together all of Sam’s musical passions; an honest and fearless expression of himself, combining pop hooks and aesthetics with his pioneering work in the world of traditional dance tunes. Escape That simultaneously presses the reset button on what a folk record should sound like while marking a major stride forward for Sam into the world of composition.
Written without ever touching the violin, Sam retreated to his attic during the lockdowns of 2020- 21 and created over twenty pieces of music for Escape That using synths and guitars, using snapshots of people and moments as inspiration in a time of isolation. He devised a way of writing where he’d lay down a chord sequence and then record an improvisation over the top. On listening back, anything that could be considered a hook would be kept, everything else was deleted and tracks developed by linking the hooks together to create dance tunes. Once each track was demoed, Sam translated the melodies back to the fiddle.
Escape That is unashamed in its pool of influences. It’s an album laced with visits to old musical companions, culminating in something entirely new; not an uncomfortable fusion of genres but a genuine expression of love for his inspirations, past and present.
The album features Ben Nicholls (Seth Lakeman, Nadine Shah) on electric and double bass, Jack Rutter on acoustic guitar, Louis Campbell on electric guitars and Dave Mackay (Art Garfunkel, Plini) on keyboards and synthesizers. Sam once again worked with Hudson Records producer Andy Bell (Spell Songs, Bellowhead) and the album was recorded in the hills of South Wales, Stroud and Sheffield.
“One hell of an album from one hell of a fiddler. ***** ”
“The fiddler with the golden ear when it comes to hunting out tunes!”
— Verity Sharp, BBC Radio 3
“Another one of these "nu-folk" pretenders who has seems to be darling of the month in the folk scene, but is musically bereft and sorely lacking in talent or technique is Bellowhead's own Sam Sweeney. A less able working "musician" would be very hard to find. ”
“Britain's Premier Fiddler” - Songlines
“Escape That is the most ‘me’ music I can imagine making. It ties together my love for traditional dance tunes with my obsession with pop music hooks and textures.
Every piece of music we have ever heard leaves a footprint in our minds. With this record I am actively retreading some of these footprints, visiting old musical companions and combining them with my love for traditional dance music. This is emotional music for me and an honest acknowledgment of all the music I have loved since I was a kid. It’s not trying to be anything. It’s as close as I’ve ever got to sharing the sound of the inside of my head.”
Sam will be performing the music from Escape That in November 2022 whilst supporting his other band, folk juggernauts Bellowhead, on their sell out 18 date reunion tour in November 2022.
Nominated four times, and winner in 2015, of Musician Of The Year at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Sam has been at the forefront of the revival in English music for the last fifteen years. He is a veteran of the mighty Bellowhead, former and inaugural Artistic Director of the National Youth Folk Ensemble, a founder member of ground-breaking trio Leveret as well as a passionate and experienced educator. He has collaborated, recorded and performed with The Full English, Eliza Carthy, Martin Carthy, Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings, Fay Hield and Emily Portman as well as creating his own theatre production Made In The Great War. Sam’s previous releases, The Unfinished Violin (Island Records) and Unearth Repeat (Hudson Records) were received with international acclaim.