“Goodnight Riverdale Park” – Suitcase Sam

3 stars (out of 5)

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Suitcase Sam – a man with a deliberately cultivated air of mystery. Historical details are sketchy; even his website has him soaking up musical influences three years before he was born. What is clear is that a lot of soaking went on. There are musical elements on the ten songs on “Goodnight Riverdale Park” dating back to the 1920s and covering a wide variety of traditional American musical stylings. A couple of reservations here; this is a very American album and it also looks quite firmly back towards a bygone era. If both of those are your thing, then carry on reading.

In keeping with the retro stylings of the songs, the co-producer of the album, Walter Sobczak eschewed digital recording technology in favour of two and a half inch tape, creating a warmer and slightly rawer sound. More authentic, and that appears to be the main priority with “Goodnight Riverdale Park”.

The album runs through a variety of traditional American styles from the old country feel of “Friday Afternoon” and “Edge of Town” through the string band resonator-led instrumental “The Maple Leaf Stomp”, the Nashville country of “Morning Mail” (a story of waiting for news that never comes), the thirties ragtime feel of “Honey I Know” to the album’s closer, “Tattered Shoes”, a straight-ahead 12-bar blues that builds up to a slide-driven full rock band arrangement that ramps up the tempo for a big final chorus. The album’s opener “Growing Up” and “Frankie and Me” both nod in the direction of The Band with Southern Rock stylings. It’s an eclectic mix, moving effortlessly through styles and pulling in slightly unorthodox instruments such as alto sax, sousaphone, clarinet, piano and organ alongside the more usual string band, resonator, fiddle and pedal steel to provide for Sam’s Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams vocal stylings.

“Goodnight Riverdale Park” won’t be for everyone, but if your thing is authentic evocations of classic periods of American musical history, then give this a listen.

“Goodnight Riverdale Park” is released in the UK on Friday March 28th on Curve Music. Meanwhile, here’s the video for “Frankie and Me”:

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