Sam Walker – Lansdown Arms – 11th October 2013

Last Friday after a hard days work in the office the BrightonsFinest team decided to make a rare group excursion to nearby Lewes having heard that wonderful Mr Sam Walker was going to be providing an evening of solo entertainment – a proposition so enticing we were prepared to miss the England game. I’d first encountered Sam, and the Lansdown itself, nearly 10 years ago when his old band Turning Green used to turn the pub into a thumping little sweatbox. Since then Sam has been very active in the Brighton music scene as well as touring all over the place in various guises. Besides his impressive solo performances he performs his own material with a large shifting ensemble group called The Muel as well as playing drums for Arthur Brown, John Watts (he’s a member of the new lineup of Fischer Z), Shona Foster, Matt Gest’s Boogie Woogie Troop and probably many more.
The Lansdown is a cosy pub just up the road from Lewes train station, back in the day Turning Green shows would see this place packed way beyond sensible capacity with moshing teens fogging up the windows and drenching the carpet in beer, but tonight we were expecting a slightly more civilised affair – indeed we even managed to find a table and chairs! Straight away it was obvious this wasn’t going to be your average singer-songwriter show as Sam had brought quite a set up with him. He had surrounded himself with parts of a drum kit, a cajón, a steel drum and keyboard besides the obligatory hollow bodied guitar. I’d seen Sam jump between instruments before but this time he had figured out how to play them all at the same time!

He used an adapted kick pedal to play the cajón as a kick drum and had another kick pedal with a tambourine clamped to it taking the role of snare, allowing him to play a beat only using with his legs. With his arms he was able to do various things, for example playing open chords on the guitar with his right hand whilst playing a bassline on the keyboard with his left and singing! Sam has somehow managed to become a ‘one man band’ without resembling the tired cliché that comes to mind when one utters that phrase. For the first set Sam treated us to a large selection of his impressive repertoire including reworked versions of some of my favourites from The Muel’s Once At Everywhere album like Supermarket Life, Can’t Start Me Up and The Roller. The steel drum on stage was leading us to expect a rendition of his beautiful song Bubble, but instead he ended the first set with an instrumental built around a steel drum arpeggio and a house beat from his improvised drum kit, this was a track that built and built gaining tempo as it grew.

If Sam was holding Bubble back for the second set he wasn’t going to get the chance; the audience swelled with the late comers (post-match perhaps) and quiet songs were banished as I climbed on top of my chair and felt like I was getting a taste of the old Lansdown shows I used to love after all. If you closed your eyes it was hard to imagine one person was playing all of this music. Sam closed with a reprise of his steel drum arpeggio song mashed together with a half remembered rendition of the old English folk ballad Matty Groves, the sort of thing I can’t imagine anyone else being able to pull off. It was shambolic, chaotic and absolutely brilliant – Mr Walker we salute you!

Adam Kidd

Here’s a video we found of Sam performing a new song in his inimitable ‘one man band’ style: