Sam Fender’s music is always intrinsically intertwined with his hometown pride and politics; his new Christmas release, a cover of Alan Hull’s ‘Winter Song’, is no exception.
Enriched by the occasional hint of his recognisable Geordie accent, Fender’s vocals here, at the risk of sounding cliché, are enough to give goosebumps. His performance is brimming with such authentic emotion that it feels almost futile to write that this release held a great deal of personal meaning to the singer – it goes without saying.
‘Winter Song’ was originally written by Alan Hull and features on his band, Lindisfarne’s, 1970 album Nicely Out of Tune. For those of us from Newcastle, Lindisfarne need little introduction; however, for those not, they are a Newcastle-made folk-rock band that dominated the local music scene in the 70s. The song rejects the tingling bells and chiming choruses that are staples of classic Christmas ballads, instead gifting us with the much-needed reminder that there are those who the Christmas spirit fails to reach; those who will spend the 25th of December like any other day, on the city streets.
Sadly, a song from 40 years ago still rings incredibly true to the 2020 listener as homelessness has grown markedly over the past ten years. More than a mere gesture, the new release works closely with homelessness organisations to cement the message further. For the single’s lyric video, Fender teamed up with ‘People of the Streets’; an organisation which, in an attempt to ‘put human stories at the heart of the public conversation on homelessness’, provides homeless people with the skills and equipment required to develop a visual portfolio documenting their lives. The lyric video overlays a collection of these photographs with ‘Winter Song’ lyrics: matching 40-year-old words with modern day visions. The 26-year-old has also joined forces with street newspaper Big Issue, announcing that from 30 November there will be a special edition of the magazine available to buy from his website. All proceeds will go towards helping Big issue continue its vital work in reintegrating homeless people into the labour market.
Fender’s release of ‘Winter Song’ shows the singers commitment to ensuring those ‘forgotten by our government’ are not forgotten by us. The cover is an amalgamation of some of the North-East’s biggest names with one of its biggest issues. No matter where his fast-moving career might take him, it’s evident his head and heart don’t stray too far from the North Shields streets he grew up in.