Bert Jansch Foundation Young Artist 2020-2022
Sam Grassie, just 24, has achieved much acclaim for his performances and recordings. His music explores the boundaries between trad folk and world blues. Hailing from Glasgow, where Bert was born, he formed a trio fronted by singer/harpist Iona Zajac which they called Avocet after Bert’s 1979 instrumental album. They follow through on that reference with mellow psychedelic folk music to soothe the soul.
Following their win at the DK Celtic Connections Festival they signed to Mink Records in 2017, travelling to the Abbey Road Institute Amsterdam to record their critically acclaimed debut EP Borrowed Seed. They have been busy since, with festival performances and gigs across the country including support for Ralph McTell. With the backing of the Bert Jansch Foundation, they have released a further single, ‘Cheating Monday’, from their forthcoming album. The band touredthe UK in April 2019. Sam is now based in London.
Sam says: I discovered Bert Jansch while sifting through my father’s music collection. Naturally, as a budding guitarist, I was enthralled by his original style and virtuosic technique. It was when I heard his protest song ‘Anti-apartheid’ that I first appreciated the power of song to illustrate situations beyond our experience. This was the catalyst for my first attempts at song writing, a fact honoured in the name of our band, Avocet. I know Jansch’s work will always be a lodestone; a source of inspiration as we continue to develop our music. It keeps us grounded in these uncertain times.
The song ‘Steal From the Road’ which Iona Zajac and I (Avocet Band) wrote and performed for Around the World in 80 Plays took shape from our reflections on the kinds of expectations we all have when embarking on a new journey. More broadly it questions the role of ego in our decisions. Bert’s work has consistently brought me to reflect on these issues, to think about the meaning and importance of integrity in what we create and express. You can also hear our rendering of ‘Blackwaterside’on the 80 Plays site.
Avocet has recorded their second album which will be released in March 2020, followed by a short tour. Sam also plays and records solo and has now moved to London.