Way on down South with Sam Jones..
I’m a bit overdue writing about Sam Jones‘ new EP – he put it out at the back end of May, I excitedly downloaded it, listened to it, loved it, then got distracted in a flurry of new music acquired after Bearded Theory and Something to Smile About – but I’ve re-found it and it’s been accompanying me to and from work for the last couple of days. It’s a splendid collection of songs.
Sam is similar to Brad Dear in that he has a voice that doesn’t belong with someone so young – his range of gritty blues through to more melodic folksy stylings seem effortless live when you see him, and it’s true of the recorded tracks too. Couple that with awesome guitar work – and layers of backing instrumentals and percussion laid down by his producer Jack during the studio time in London, and you have five special tracks.
It’s funny how the music industry works – you have the Ed Sheerans and Jake Buggs of this world who sky-rocket to stardom, I always wonder what that catalyst is – don’t get me wrong, I rather like Jake Bugg. Ed Sheeran less so, but I do wonder what spark of luck thrusts their undeniable talent into such fierce limelight whilst someone like Sam and countless other performing artists I know are left – to coin a phrase from Gaz Brookfield – one step left of limelight.
Anyway, I digress – and selfishly I don’t mind really – I get to see them perform lots for very little outlay! So, the EP! It opens up with All I Am – introspective and self-depreciating to a degree (this is a bit of a running theme – I asked Sam why his songs were grumpy, he said they were ‘bits of writing in buses and pubs’ – I guess sat in either of these things on your own might evoke those kinds of feelings. We agreed between us that ‘folk blues’ is a fair classification though, so that’s something!
Earthy acoustic guitar with soulful vocals kick us off – “When the ghost of guilt is at my door” – see, told you he was grumpy! Backing vocals add depth whilst some synthy keyboardy stuff gives a bit of atmosphere to accompany the guitar before the percussion and bass kick in to give some real oomph without drowning out the delicate structure of the song already sketched out with guitar and voice. Apologetic yet defiant – “I’m a rambling man and I know that this is all I am.”
Comedown Kid is pacier from the off – frantic guitar and percussion and stabs of wall-of-sound over the chorus. I’d divined some kind of ‘youth of today’ theme, Sam kind of confirmed that when I quizzed him about it, it sounds like generational cycles of inevitability – there’s a great pace changey section towards the end (is that a bridge? I don’t know) – it’s a nice distruption with some cracking electric guitar work before we’re kicked back into the chorus to finish.
Next track slows us down again, Dirt might be my favourite track – an ominous bass riff plays over acoustic strumming, glimpses of slide guitar and electric guitar refrains. Lyrics speak of beasts and where wild winds blow, we’re back in moody territory – but it’s passionately delivered, always that ominous bass backing. There’s an optimistic lilt or possibly a ‘fuck it, I’m moving on’ conclusion in the theme, a fake stop kicks us back in without time to pause – I love this track.
Wilderness isn’t a new one on me – indeed, it’s the title track of Sam’s last EP (which also had a railway platform on the cover!). Here the production has tightened it right up – deliciously evocative finger picking on guitar opens the track with angst-drenched lyrics evoking imagery of some kind of dystopia, whether a real one or one trapped in the psyche – who can tell but the writer? Gentle synth backing accompanies without intruding – leaving the guitar and Sam’s voice to carry the message.
It’s a lovely track – it feels like it needs to kick into a more energetic part two though!
Finally we’re left with Fixing The Nets – more overtly folky, as the title implies the lyrics have a ‘making the best of it’ vibe to them, here we have vocals and guitar gently assisted by bass, keyboards and percussion. “Don’t wait for me it’s fair thee well, my friend” is how the song proper finishes before you get a brief extra acoustic section – there’s redemption of sorts in there, fixing the nets and charting a course on a ship bound for the light sounds much better than being resigned to wandering around alone!
So, we’ve settled on blues-folk/folk-blues – this is a great collection of songs that you’d do well to avail yourself of. For physical copies on CD then contact Sam through his Facebook page, but if you’re more of a digital music kinda person then they’re also available on iTunes I didn’t spot any Google Play or Amazon Music links I’m afraid – but you give it a trial run on Spotify if that’s more your kinda thing. Either way, you need to get your tabs around these songs!