Roots Vibes

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New country star California-based Sam Outlaw has been hailed as one of a selected few worthy to carry forth the torch vacated by past country music masters.

My last two experiences seeing Sam Outlaw, live have been like chalk and cheese. I felt his show with a full-band at last year’s Americana SummerTyne Festival was a huge disappointment.

Here he was so way better, his lyrics could be heard, and he sounded like it meant something to the South Dakota-born act, and the other members too enjoyed the freedom.

A smaller combo, as was the case tonight suited him perfectly. Assisting him were Molly Jenson on vocals and acoustic guitar player plus London’s Matt Park.

Winning favour on pedal steel and electric guitar Park was as essential to the night’s success, which it undoubtedly was. If you asked anyone afterwards you would invariably be given the thumbs up.

Piling one good performance on top of another as Jenson’s vocals warmed his own well-groomed lead, the audience lapped up the humour filled “Jesus Take The Wheel (And Drive Me To A Bar)”, “She’s Playing Hard To Get (Rid Of)” and superb, humour etched “I’m Not Jealous”.

The latter featured the killer line, but embarrassed for you as he spoke of a relationship gone wrong. Brought up on vintage West Coast and otherwise country Outlaw has learnt what it takes to entertain an audience with songs not short in irony, it is like those people with little can always find the funny side of life.

Producing one mighty song after another the amiable Outlaw and accompany duo thrilled the once again packed audience at the Theatre. Figured among the highlights you had the likes of “Angeleno”, the Don Williams-esque “Love Her For A While” and one of his best, if not his best song “Trouble” to place a big smile on all and sundry.

Outlaw’s love of sibling harmonies, learnt from listening to the Everly Brothers and Charlie and Ira Louvin (the Louvin Brothers) has seen him soak up their style, and input into his own.

On closing in on the finishing line, Outlaw to the delight of his fans became even better as he served up the strong flowing pieces “Cry For Me” and “All My Life”, and with a barroom never far away in his songs he was the ideal act to lift the mood of anyone in need of a little good ol’ Cal-Country sunshine.

Mention of his recent award at the Americana Music Awards didn’t escape a mention or his performance at the pre-Grammy show celebrating the musical heritage of Emmylou Harris.

Performing two songs with Jenson that night was a genuine thrill for Outlaw, and with that in mind he performed Gram Parsons’ song “Juanita”. Parsons being an act he learnt about through Harris.

So beautiful is the vocal connection between Outlaw and Jenson I believe the next logic step for him would be, record an old-fashioned country duet album.

While some of Outlaw’s songs spoke of falling on troubled times his love affair with the UK and its audiences looks set to last for a long time. As does the Jumpin Hot Club’s successful partnership with a venue that ticks a great many boxes.

Support from country folk act Paul Handyside and sideman Rob Tickell on lap steel, guitar was likewise impressive. His songs about WW1 and “Hartley Mining Catastrophe” captured the imagination and desire to look at the history of the latter.

In covering the tragedy it underlines just how much heritage and source of inspiration the area possesses, regards material to hone in on and write about!
Maurice Hope words/pic