Sam Outlaw’s self-released EP back in 2014 introduced a refreshing new artist with immense potential, one of a rare breed of true ‘country’ artists in today’s mainstream-orientated industry. The EP created a huge buzz which allowed Sam to appear at major festivals including Stagecoach and AmericanaFest. He soon caught the eye of roots/americana musician Ry Cooder, who has worked with some of the best in the business since the 1960s, and Ry asked to produce and play on Sam’s first full-length album, ‘Angeleno’.
It doesn’t get much more country than this. Sam describes his sound as “SoCal country” – country with a Southern Californian influence, a sound which runs through the album from start to finish. The end product is a stunning collection of laid-back, quality songs that demonstrate Sam’s enormous potential, and this is hopefully just the beginning of a very successful career. There are no filllers in sight; every song is a classic. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the modern transformation of country music, but this is how country really should be.
The opener, ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ is a wonderful blend of slide guitars, trumpets and acoustic guitars, resulting in an almost latin-sounding melody. My first thought was that it is rather reminiscent of The Mavericks. This track allows Sam’s superb musicians to show their talent, and I would absolutely love to hear this beautiful instrumentation performed live. Sam doesn’t require any electric-pop sounds or any studio alterations – this is pure country.
Another highlight is ‘Country Love Song’, a gorgeous acoustic track which is so simple yet so effective. This one gives Sam the opportunity to show his raw talent, both as a songwriter and vocalist. Nothing more than a couple of guitars here – there is nowhere to hide. The result is a gorgeous song which is one of the clear stand-outs on the album. It has the potential to be a massive hit.
My personal favourite, however, is Sam’s latest single ‘Ghost Town’ (video can be seen below). It is written about Sam’s memories of a town which has lost the life it once had – “no blood in these veins”. I can honestly say this is the catchiest song I’ve heard in ages. When you’ve heard it once, you’ll be hooked. This is one which lends itself beautifully to Sam’s live shows, as the chorus provides a perfect opportunity for a sing-a-long moment. Why it isn’t dominating the charts is beyond me. Country radio needs to be pushing this.
Other stand-out moments include the memorable and humorously written ‘Jesus Take The Wheel (and drive me to a bar)’, which is definitely the most traditional-sounding track on the album. It almost sounds like a throwback to artists like George Jones, who inspired Sam to learn guitar and write songs. Also, I love ‘Old Fashioned’, another simple, stripped-back melody which is so effective and wraps you up with its warmth.
‘Angeleno’ will be released in the UK on January 15th. I urge you to give it a try. Maybe Sam’s raw country style won’t be your cup of tea, but one thing is for sure – you have to appreciate the quality of the writing and instrumentation from start to finish. It really is refreshing in the modern world of country to see an artist staying true to his roots, creating music that he wants to create.
Sam will be travelling to the UK later this month to open for Aaron Watson in Manchester, Birmingham and London. Tickets are still available, don’t miss out!
Twitter – @LifeInASong_UK @Flatthead_Dan