Sam Lewis @Green Note 26/10/15

4 stars (out of 5)

0

Photo by Glenn Campbell

Photo by Glenn Campbell

Intimate doesn’t really do justice to the experience of a sold-out gig downstairs at Green Note; it’s way beyond cosy with an audience of twenty-five. In an ideal world Sam Lewis would be playing a bigger room, but sometimes you have to work with what you have. Fortunately, everyone in the audience has come particularly to see Sam tonight, so we can just relax into a great live experience. On Sam’s latest album, “Waiting on You”, he’s backed by the cream of Nashville’s studio musicians, but this is a solo acoustic gig, and the songs and voice stand or fall on merit alone. I’m not going for the suspense thing here, I’ll tell you straight; this man has a phenomenal voice and his songs are multi-faceted gems.

Sam’s voice and songwriting fall into an intersection between soul, blues and country that doesn’t see too many visitors, but that isn’t the only thing to make him stand out. His laid-back stoner stage persona creates an immediate bond with the small audience before he’s even sung or played a note and generates a rapport that strengthens as the gig goes on.

Maybe it’s a reference to the heat in the venue (it’s a bit like having thirty people in your living room) but the opening song is an interesting one; it’s John Prine’s “Mexican Home”. Once the tuning issues caused by the heat are out of the way, Sam enchants the audience with two sets that include songs from “Waiting on You”, including “Things Will Never be the Same” (written in the UK last year, apparently), “Little Time”, “Virginia Avenue”, “3/4 Time”, “Reinventing the Blues”, “Waiting on You”, a superb “Never Again” and a mix of covers and earlier material.

Sam’s digressions between songs have a tendency towards the surreal and work perfectly to dissolve any barriers there may be between performer and audience; on the surface it looks shambolic, but it’s a hugely effective approach. Towards the end of his first set he talks about the impact that Fred Eaglesmith has had on his writing, playing the wonderful “Bluesday Night” from his debut album as an example of Fred’s influence, which he follows with the heart-rending “The Rocket” from Fred’s 2003 album “Balin”; it’s one of many perfect moments during the set.

After the encore of “The Cross I Wear”, it’s all over and Sam Lewis found some new fans, including a group celebrating a birthday; that’s the kind of birthday party I would go to every time. It’s too late to see Sam Lewis on this tour, but watch out for him next year. Meanwhile I think you ought to have a listen to “Sam Lewis”, “Waiting on You” or both to start the weekend.