Sam Outlaw opened for Aaron Watson on his UK tour just three months ago, captivating audiences with his “So-Cal Country” music and building a whole new fan base in the process. An April headlining tour was already in the works; six UK shows to be precise. Brave, we thought. Very brave. As talented as Sam is, we honestly didn’t believe there would be enough people to fill six rooms, particularly as he has only released one album to date. But Sam’s show at The Tunnels in Bristol on 10th April soon diminished our doubts, as a fairly large crowd of enthusiastic country fans came out to watch Sam do his thing. Amazing what a session with Bob Harris and a performance on the Andrew Marr show can do isn’t it?
Needless to say, this is just the very beginning for Sam, an artist who deserves to be playing MUCH bigger venues. It would be unfair if we didn’t mention the opening act, Yola Carter, who brought her style of soul-country and totally stole the show. Powerhouse vocals would be an understatement. A particular highlight was ‘Orphan Country’, an incredibly written song which almost verges on gospel music. Everybody in the room seemed transfixed by her. She finished with Chris Stapleton’s ‘Traveller’, which was of course a popular choice. A new EP is on the way very soon – make sure you go and check her out. Stunning.
Sam took to the stage soon after, starting with a gorgeous new track from an album which he plans to release in the fall. We’re not too sure what the title was, hopefully someone can help us out! ‘Look At You Now’ might be it. This is classic Sam Outlaw, a beautifully laid-back melody with such intricately written lyrics. If this is a sign of things to come from Sam, then boy do we have a star in the making. We were also treated to two other new tracks, ‘She’s Playing Hard To Get Rid Of’, as well as ‘Till We Reach The End’, “a sing-along song but there’s no f***ing way you’ll learn the words”. Sam in a nutshell, folks! The new ones could have fitted seamlessly onto the first album ‘Angeleno’; it’s refreshing to see an artist staying true to his roots and making real country music despite the lack of mainstream appeal.
Most of the first album featured in the set list, including personal favourites ‘Country Love Song’ and ‘Angeleno’ which never get old. As far as country music goes, those are as good as it gets. The crowd really embraced his performance of ‘Ghost Town’ which seems to have become a fan favourite and is always the best sing-along moment. Saying that, however, everybody seemed to know the whole album which was a pleasant surprise, as they sang along to the likes of ‘It Might Kill Me’, ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ and ‘Jesus Take The Wheel (And Drive Me To A Bar)’.
The accompaniment of Molly Jenson was a welcome addition this time around. Unfortunately, she didn’t come with Sam for the Aaron Watson tour. Her harmonies take Sam’s songs up to the next level, and it was wonderful to see them having a laugh together on stage too. They both have such a dry sense of humour, and anyone who has seen Sam live will know that the show is half music, half comedy. Molly’s moment to shine came during ‘Keep It Interesting’, which was part of Sam’s three-song encore, where she sang a verse and stunned us with her vocal ability.
If you haven’t had a chance to catch a Sam Outlaw show yet, there are more opportunities later this year, and no doubt he will be back soon to do another UK tour. Sam will be performing at Maverick festival on July 2nd, followed by shows in Lewes and Sheffield on the 5th and 6th. He will also be performing at Cambridge Folk Festival on 30th July. Also, if you haven’t checked out the debut album ‘Angeleno’, be sure to do so. It’s one of the best collections of songs we’ve heard in a very long time.