— by Matthew Bavaro-Phelan
While it bears the sonic landmarks of roots music’s most fertile ground, the songwriting of Sam Lewis is born of a landscape that can only be felt, not seen. His music is native to the infinite expanse that is exposed when human attention is full, and focused inward – harvested solely by the nuanced rhythm of love. Sam’s songs are rooted in the energy that defines this harmonious frontier, the space that unifies the human experience in each of us. It’s the anchored spirit in this incubated territory of soul for which Sam Lewis works to celebrate and elevate with the tones of rock & roll, rhythm & blues and a country-folk muse.
Sam is not the first man to turn over this primal soil, but he is unquestionably here to be the one that keeps sowing the field. Lewis laments, “I flip on a radio or stare at my phone, and I hear some familiar sounds and I see some flashy things being made right now – and that’s cool. But it’s real hard to find something that’s being said beyond what’s superficial. And then go I and spin a record by Lee Dorsey and I feel the world lifted with four words and a funky groove, and then I’ll listen to Pops Staples preaching the most earnest spirit with some shake, swagger and sweat thrown on it – and man there it is, there’s the fresh air, there’s the hope. These are the men that paved the path I want to walk on, the path I want to preserve. Everyone is welcome to walk it with me. I hope they do.” > READ MORE
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Sam Lewis is a hard act to follow. On his sophomore effort, Waiting On You, he’s outdone himself. For his eponymous 2012 debut, Lewis’s country roots were packed with Al Green-style soul. His latest is still soaked with soul, but more in a wistful, Van Morrison mode. The opener “3/4 Time,” shimmers with laidback optimism, bolstering Lewis’ glide-along philosophy, taking on his days in ¾ time.
“She’s A Friend” is silky, soothing soul with a country accent, a perfect candidate for entry in the swamp pop sweepstakes as well. Like any true soul man, Lewis’s soul seems to ooze out of his pores, never sounding forced or contrived.
He shifts gears for “Things Will Never Be the Same,” galloping along a country path, sounding like Van Morrison channeling Jerry Lee. He revisits Van again on “Talk to Me,” capturing Morrison’s understated power and glory with churchy soul in the style of “Saint Dominic’s Preview.”
Marty Stuart’s Fabulous Superlative guitarist Kenny Vaughn was the bandleader and primary guitarist on Lewis’s debut release and is back here again, only providing some laid-back licks as the guest guitarist on “She’s a Friend.” Oliver Wood (Wood Brothers) is onboard as producer on this one, picking up the slack on electric guitar.
This is really impressive stuff. “Talk To Me” drips with Van Morrison-style soul, with Gabe Dixon’s burbling B-3 in the background, surrounding the McCrary Sisters’ gospel chorus.
Lewis also has folkie roots entangled with his soul persona, as he exhibits on the John Prine-flavored “I’m Coming Home.” But, as with everything Lewis takes on, not just one style prevails. Jano Rix’s piano adds a country gospel flavor to the mix.
If you’re not already a fan, one listen should get you onboard. He’s just waiting on you.
Americana-Soul Slinger SAM LEWIS Calls Upon Nashville Royalty for Sophomore LP,
Waiting On You, out April 21st
Produced by Wood Brothers’ Oliver Wood with Guest Appearances by Kenny Vaughan,
Darrell Scott, The McCrary Sisters, and More