Archives: Sam Lewis ‘Waiting On You’ – Album Review
This article was first published on August 25th, 2015 on forthecountryrecord.com.
Country soulman Sam Lewis first came to the world’s attention in 2012 via his self-titled debut album, but the singer/songwriter from Asheboro, NC has been honing his talents and paying his dues for far longer. Obsessed with the guitar as a young man, he joined a friend in Knoxville to write his first collection of songs, playing them in coffee shops, before in 2008 self-releasing an acoustic record titled ‘One’s A Long Time, Two’s A Fly By’. Twelve months later Sam moved to Nashville and connected with producer Matt Urmy, who introduced him to famed guitarist Kenny Vaughan, and from there they went into the studio. Six tracks were recorded in one day, and, encouraged by the productivity, Sam saved enough to get a second studio session in January 2011. The record was finished, and when it was released the next year it garnered positive press from the likes of No Depression and PopMatters.
But that wasn’t the end of the story, and soon Sam was out on the road, playing wherever he could and soon attracting bigger and bigger audiences. Last summer (2014) he returned to the studio, this time at Southern Ground, accompanied by a host of even more celebrated musicians and collaborators. The collective played together live and tracked all twelve songs in just two and a half days. The result is an incredibly enjoyable and musically credible record that borrows from country, folk, blues and soul, Sam’s rich baritone guiding us effortlessly through a plethora of classic offerings.
From the smooth harmonies and gentle sway of ‘She’s A Friend’ to the 50s blues swagger of ‘Reinventing The Blues’, Sam is reverently understated and eternally sincere, treating his songs like something between adored children and carefully curated pieces of art. Each track takes on something of a classic feel just for the incredibly capable interpretations of well-loved styles of old, fallen out of fashion but never truly gone. While Sam opts for the rhythm of traditional rock ‘n’ roll on opener ‘3/4 Time’ and ‘Things Will Never Be The Same’, he has plenty of time for the heartfelt country storytelling of ‘Texas’ and sweet ditty ‘Virginia Avenue’, and that’s where the sweet spot of this album lies.
There is something wonderfully relaxing about ‘Waiting On You’; even the slightly more up-tempo songs are comparatively reserved and Sam never pushes or strain his vocals, meaning that he’s always in a comfortable range that serves his husky, soulful voice well. Like a sweet syrup or honey, he is reminiscent of a young Chris Stapleton in places, channeling that instant star power that is not forced nor contrived. Some people are just born to play music, and it’s clear that Sam Lewis is one of those people.
The record presents further texture with the southern blues/gospel of closer ‘I’m Coming Home’, the swampy troubadour tale of ‘Little Time’, the pedal steel-infused heartache of ‘Never Again’, and the country soul lighter-waving of ‘Love Me Again’, presenting a unified collection of material that is sure to explore different styles, but keep them in the same family. Playing the whole record live and putting it together so quickly has helped this; all the songs sound like chapters from the same book. This is also thanks to the incredible contributions of guitarist Darrell Scott (Steve Earle, Guy Clark, Robert Plant), harmonica player Mickey Raphael (Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young), guitarist Will Kimbrough (Rodney Crowell, Jimmy Buffett), keyboardist Gabe Dixon (Paul McCartney, Supertramp), vocal group The McCrary Sisters (Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Buddy Miller, Patty Griffin), producer Oliver Wood (The Wood Brothers) and Grammy-nominated mixer and engineer Brandon Bell (chief engineer at Southern Ground Studios).
So if you want an album to take you to your musical happy place, make you think, make you move, make you feel, then Sam Lewis’ new record ‘Waiting On You’ is for you. It is a fabulous tribute to southern music in its way but also its own entity that will be loved for many years to come.