It was only a matter of time. A late night bar conversation between Sam Carter and Jim Moray (both BBC Folk Award winners in their own right) concluded in the forming of a gleefully raucous guitar band that plays traditional songs and tunes, without committing the sins of the past.
False Lights are a folk rock group, formed in the spirit of the genre’s late-‘60s originators but informed by the music of Sam and Jim’s far more recent youth. It felt to them that no one had updated the template. False Lights owe as much to Radiohead as they do to Fairport Convention.
False Lights made their live debut headlining Suffolk’s Folk East festival in 2014. By then the band had expanded from a drunken notion into a line-up that boasts not only Carter and Moray on vocals and guitars but also Nick Cooke from the Kate Rusby band on melodeon, Tom Moore from Moore, Moss Rutter on violin, Barnaby Stradling from Blowabella on bass, and Sam’s long serving drummer Sam Nadel. A dream list of musicians making a fantastic racket.
Fans of Sam and Jim’s often sombre solo work might be surprised by their stated intention to make False Lights a joyful spectacle. But that’s immediately evident when they perform. This is a turn-it-up-to-eleven-and-throw-yourself-about-your-dad’s-garage kind of group. Folk songs you can jump to.
The songs that make up False Lights’ debut LP Salvor came together during a week-long log cabin retreat in Lincolnshire. Child ballad The Wife Of Usher’s Well, a traditional Scottish tale of grief, is set to a new tune from the American shapenote tradition, with a nod to US superproducer Timbaland. There are echoes of Queens Of The Stone Age too. And that’s just the first track. Feedback and melodeons run into each other on the broadside ballad Skewball, while the dancefloor’s durability is challenged with an assault on Sam McGrady’s The Charlesworth Hornpipe. Closing the record is Tennyson’s Crossing The Bar, a hymn to life (set to music by Rani Arbo) which goes out in a blaze of horns and samba percussion. Both the band name and the album title were inspired by Bella Bathurst’s 2005 novel The Wreckers which tells of 18th-century scavengers using false lights to wreck ships and salvage the contents. No member of False Lights has ever knowingly wrecked a ship and salvaged the contents.
False Lights isn’t simply a side project or a one-off collaboration by two of English folk music’s most popular young singers. Jim Moray and Sam Carter have formed a brand new folk rock group. And they’re really bloody excited about it.Sam Carter will also be playing a solo set in the Minster Saturday lunchtime concert and Tom Moore & Archie Churchill-Moss will be playing on the Stage in the Square on Saturday afternoon.