Thirty Tigers/Cooking Vinyl
The New King of Laid Back Country Strikes Again.
In the last couple of years there’s been a slew of new, young Stetson wearing Country singer-songwriters; at the very least some are ‘good’ but a couple, and I count Sam Outlaw as one ….are truly exceptional, as his 2015 debut ANGELENO proved.
Less than two years later he returns with more of the same; but with added maturity and occasionally ‘edge’ to his writing.
Throwing us the first curve ball Sam goes deep, really deep on opening track the sweepingly atmospheric Everyone’s Looking For Home. A slow burner of a ballad finds Sam Outlaw in a very dark place, and the inclusion of an almost funereal sounding Mariachi band adds an extra dimension to an already beautiful song.
Bottomless Mimosas, which follows is one of those songs that make you go “OOOOOHHHH!” when you here it. The gentle guitars, strummed bass and the tsch-tsch of the drums eventually melt behind Outlaw’s softly expressive voice and when the (now cheery) Mariachi band drift in the world and its troubles all drift away into the sunset. What’s not to like?
Outlaw lays his ‘feelings’ out on the line for all to see and dissect on several songs here with She’s Playing Hard To Get (Rid Of) and the Modern Classic that is Now She Tells Me gently squeezing your heartstrings until you gasp for breath.
In real life Sam Outlaw is in a very happy and stable relationship; but boy can he write a tearjerker! Diamond Ring and Two Broken Hearts are both the type of Country songs you pray to hear on FM radio, but never do because Music Row don’t write ’em like this any-more…..but Sam Outlaw does.
When it comes to selecting a ‘favourite track’ I don’t set any parameters; you don’t do you? Music doesn’t work that way…….the best songs just ‘touch you’ for no reason that makes sense.
Here I finally pulled it back to three songs…..the album is so good it could be any actually; with the odd subject matter of Bougainvillea, I Think being an extraordinary song and beautiful with it. Sam looks back to his late teenage years when he would sit and ‘drink beers and chat’ with his matronly next door neighbour neighbour, whose name and the ‘flower she would wear’ he can no longer remember. Not a tale of love (lost or unrequited) just a woman with lots of life stories he once knew who is slowly being erased from his memory as he himself grows older. Quite delightful.
The title track TENDERHEART does what a title track should do; encapsulate what the album is all about and this one does it with grace and style. A cleverly worded song with a gorgeous melody and is as Country as Country gets these days.
But, as the shuffle mode on my I-Phone has been trying to tell me the award goes to All My Life. Compared to the rest it’s quite a simple love song (the best ones always are) Sam tells us that he’s travelled the world ‘looking for a wife’ and there she was in his home town all along! It’s a bit of a Romeo and Juliet theme as my favourite line suggests “We are still to young/and your father owns a gun/I think you are just the girl to make me settle down.”
It’s a fun little ditty with a razor sharp sense of humour and Outlaw’s trademark worldly wise observations in every line…..all coupled with a classy melody too. A WINNER.
The album closes with another sad heartbreaker, Look At You Now and as it fades to the groove you will take a deep breath, sigh and either press Play or turn your disc over to side 1 again and drop the needle onto track #1 and before you know it it will be 3AM and you haven’t gone to bed.
Country Music comes in many shapes and formats, and I pretty much love all of it but on a long sunny day nothing beats slipping on a Jimmy Buffett, Lyle Lovett or perhaps Don Gibson and now we can add Sam Outlaw to that list.
Released April 14th 2017